Thursday, 22 October 2015

‘Butterflies’ by Ronald Orenstein - a book review

'Butterflies' by Ronald Orenstein, photography by Thomas Marent

Published by Firefly Books, October 2015

I was approached by Firefly Books to review this addition to butterfly literature. When I unwrapped the package I was delighted to find a large format book (28.5 x 23.8 x 2.7cm) with an outstanding cover, easily readable text (white on black) and excellent photographs. I like the layout where text and photos combine to give an interesting read. Each page offers one to several photos of different sizes to give a ‘wow’ factor.

The author’s lucid text makes this volume an enjoyable read and the division of subject matter makes it an easy book to dip into. I don’t pretend to have read every word yet, but I have learnt a lot from the first 28 pages (the  Introduction). It now sits on our coffee table where I can dip into it whenever I like, which will be often. A worthy place is waiting for it in my bookshelf next to Thomas & Lewington's Butterflies of Britain & Ireland.

The back cover states: 'These photographs are a visual feast that showcases the beauty and mystery of butterfly and moth species from around the globe'. I can only agree!

The book is divided into an Introduction to butterflies, 6 chapters covering families of butterflies, 4 chapters covering various aspects of butterflies , and finally a chapter about moths:

Introducing Butterflies (28 pages)
·         What are butterflies?
·         The rise of butterflies
·         Butterfly families
·         Wings and flight
·         Scales and colors
·         Wing patterns and genetics
·         Mimics and models
·         Finding a mate
·         Butterfly courtship
·         Nuptial gifts and multiple partners
·         Host plants and oviposition
·         Social caterpillars, cannibals and myrmecophiles
·         Development and diapause
·         Butterflies, nectar and pollen
·         Butterfly migration
·         Butterflies under threat
·         Butterflies and climate change
·         Conserving butterflies

1. Swallowtails (8 pages)
2. Skippers (8 pages)
3. Whites, Sulphurs and Yellows (12 pages)
4. Brush-footed Butterflies (46 pages)
5. Gossamer-winged Butterflies (6 pages)
6. Metalmarks (8 pages)
7. Butterfly Wings (16 pages)
8. Butterfly Life History (44 pages)
9. What Butterflies Eat (26 pages)
10. Butterflies in their Environment (20 pages)
11. Myriads of Moths (47 pages)

Further reading and selected websites: page 279
Index pages 280-287

Ronald Orenstein is a Canadian zoologist, wildlife conservationist, naturalist and lawyer.
His other recent books include Ivory, Horn and Blood and Hummingbirds.

Thomas Marent is a wildlife photographer based in Switzerland. His previous books include Frog; Rainforest; Life in the Wild and Like Us: Encounters with Primates.

Author’s Naturalist blog:

412 references used by the author for his research are listed here:

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