Butterflies Butterflies Butterflies Butterflies

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Not Available Online
Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: Ron Orenstein ; Photography by Thomas Marent
Audience: Trade
Specs: 350 color photographs, further reading, index
Pages: 288
Trim Size: 9" X 11" X 1 1/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20150917
Copyright Year: 2015
Price: Select Below


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This visual feast reveals a multitude of butterfly and moth species from around the globe.

Here are some of the most colorful, spectacular and sometimes weird examples of the world's butterflies and moths. From the common swallowtail to the iridescent blue morpho, Thomas Marent's stunning photographs provide a close-up view of the remarkable family of insects known as Lepidoptera. The macro photography complements the enlightening text written by zoologist Ronald Orenstein, who explains the scientific curiosities of these amazing insects. He makes clear how to differentiate between butterflies and moths; how caterpillars camouflage themselves; and how their feeding strategies and evolutionary adaptations help them prevail in the wild.

Examples include such seldom-seen species as the green dragontail (Indonesia), Mexican kite-swallowtail (Costa Rica), the alpine black swallowtail (China) and European sulphurs. Among the many anatomical characteristics profiled are the purpose and differences between butterfly and moth antennae (smell, communication and feel); how some butterflies are amazing mimics, appearing to the untrained eye as nectar-feeding hummingbirds; and how the patterns on their wings, depending on the species, may be spots that make the insects look like larger critters to their predators.

Butterflies has seven sections which provide comprehensive coverage of Lepidoptera. They are:

1. Introduction to Butterflies includes What are butterflies?; Color Patterns; Courtship; Migration; and Climate Change
2. Butterfly Diversity includes Swallowtails; Skippers; Whites, Sulphurs and Yellows; Milkweed Butterflies; Fritillaries; Emperors; Gossamer-winged Butterflies; Metalmarks and more
3. Butterfly Wings covers Flight; Color; Tails and Ornaments; Eyespots and more 4. Butterfly Life History covers Mating; Eggs; Caterpillars; Metamorphosis and more
5. What Butterflies Eat includes Feeding Apparatus; Flowers; Rotting Fruit; Drinking; Puddling and more
6. Butterflies in their Environment covers Predators; Camouflage; Mimicry; Overwintering and more
7. Myriads of Moths includes Day-Flying Moths; Silks; Giants; Mimicry; Wing Pattern; Defense and more.

Butterflies brings to abundant life the unfathomable beauty and variety of butterflies and moths.


Ronald Orenstein is a zoologist, lawyer and wildlife conservationist who has written extensively on natural history issues. His most recent books are Ivory, Horn and Blood and Hummingbirds. He lives in Toronto.

Thomas Marent is a wildlife photographer based in Switzerland. His previous books include Frog, Rainforest and Life in the Wild.


excerpt from the Introduction

It would be nice to think that butterflies had something to do with butter, like the bread-and-butterfly Alice encounters behind the looking-glass. The Old English word buttorfleoge, from which "butterfly" probably derives, may have been inspired by the butter-yellow wings of the Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni). It may also come from the belief that butterflies hovering around milk pails were actually witches in disguise, there to steal the cream. The peculiar word "caterpillar" is supposed to come from the Old French chatepelose, meaning "hairy cat" or, roughly, "fuzzball." Or maybe it comes from cate, meaning "food," and piller, meaning "pillage," in recognition of its voracious appetite. We don't know for sure.

Butterflies have long been symbols of our own ephemeral nature. To the Blackfoot, butterflies are the bringers of dreams. According to the creation myths of the Miao people of southwestern China, the human race itself is descended from the eggs of a Butterfly Mother. In China butterflies are symbols of long life, beauty and elegance. A pair of butterflies symbolizes eternal love, most famously in the 1,600-year-old legend of the "butterfly lovers" Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, who were turned into butterflies after their tragic deaths.

Butterfly life cycles are metaphors for birth, death and rebirth for peoples from Japan to Mexico. The arrival of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) on their wintering grounds in Mexico coincides with the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos), and Mexicans have traditionally viewed the arriving insects as the souls of their ancestors, come for their yearly visit. The pre-Columbian flower goddess Xochiquetzal, worshipped as an aspect of a lunar cult in central Mexico, was identified with the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudatus) because of both its attraction to flowers and its aggressive, warrior-like nature, since Xochiquetzal was a warrior herself.

Butterflies have become model organisms for studies in genetics, ecology and evolutionary biology. Engineers have tried to replicate their flight. Designers of antifogging and antifouling surfaces, which are needed for everything from medical catheters to nuclear power plants, have analyzed the way a butterfly's wings direct water droplets away from its body. The intricately structured, dazzlingly iridescent wing scales of tropical American morphos (Morpho spp.) have been examined, particularly in China, for their application to the design of reflective surfaces and -- because exposure to different gases changes their iridescent tint -- vapor detectors.

For centuries, then, we have seen butterflies as remarkable creatures. And we are still learning how remarkable they are.



    Introducing Butterflies

    Whites, Sulphurs and Yellows
    Brush-footed Butterflies
    Gossamer-winged Butterflies
    Butterfly Wings
    Butterfly Life History
    What Butterflies Eat
    Butterflies in Their Environment
    Myriads of Moths

    Further Reading

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