One for the Collectors

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Title: The Butterflies of Australia 

Authors: Albert Orr & Roger Kitching

While I’ve always found insects fascinating, I've never been one of those guys who meander through meadows with a net in hand, excitedly screaming out the scientific-name of colourful butterflies as they flutter by, ripe for the catching and collecting.

Nevertheless, the very look of this book as it sat on display in the book-store was enough to capture my imagination and turn the switch in my head from butterfly indifference to butterfly enthusiast. A large, beautifully covered volume, The Butterflies of Australia is described by its authors as a field guide, but one would find it hard to contemplate inflicting the rough life of a field handy book on this treasure.

Turning the pages, one is quickly met with stunning illustrations of our country’s Lepidoptera species. The book is one big testament to the beauty of Australia’s 400 species of butterfly, and the drawings within do much to entice the reader into investigating these animals further.

The first pages are dedicated to the biology of butterflies, and while comprehensive, the academic authors Orr and Kitching do a good job at keeping the language understandable to all. The second chapter runs through the habitats in which our native species can be found, followed by a chapter on the intimate relationship these pollinating insects share with plants, and then a discussion of our own human connection with butterflies. Beyond that, the book takes on its presented purpose as a field guide, with a comprehensive coverage of Australia’s five butterfly families, and their associated sub-families. Species are often illustrated in their relevant habitats, and their range within Australia is clearly depicted. 

This book is a great edition to any reader’s bookshelf, and with such clear language and beautiful imagery, it has the ability to turn many newcomers into steadfast enthusiasts, whilst still being thorough enough to please the long-time butterfly naturalist. With the weather warming up and the insect season upon us, I would definitely recommend it.  

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