Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Review: 'The Life Cycles of Butterflies' by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

The Life Cycles of Butterflies: From Egg to Maturity, a Visual Guide to 23 Common Garden Butterflies, by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards, Photography by Judy Burris, Wayne Richards, and Christina Richards, 2006, Storey Publishing, $16.95, softbound, 151 pages. Category/Genre: science. Cover: attractive. Where we got it: publisher. Where you can get it: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million.

A Teacher's Choice Award-winning book, The Life Cycles of Butterflies was written by a brother and sister team whose love of butterflies started when they were very young and their mother took them out on hiking trails on weekend mornings. 

The book starts off by explaining how butterflies lay eggs, how caterpillars grow, and how chrysalises are formed. In this section, the authors relate that butterflies have chemical receptors (similar to taste buds) on their tongue, antennae, and feet. They also caution to never try to remove an egg from a leaf, as it will likely tear apart. Instead, use a magnifying glass to see it better. 

The parts of a caterpillar are identified, and there are colour photos of eggs and chrysalises as well as full grown butterflies. 

The life cycles of 23 common species of butterflies are then documented and organised according to Family. Included in this chapter are range maps showing where the butterflies live and how many broods occur per year. There are also life cycle timelines that illustrate when these butterflies are active and likely to be seen. In addition, each butterfly's host plants and nectar plants are listed and pictured.

There is also a section on gardening to draw butterflies to your home. This has information on plastic butterfly feeders; the authors caution that one should use a ten percent sugar solution instead of the twenty percent solution used for hummingbirds, and to use fructose instead of cane sugar, as cane may recrystallise inside the butterfly's body and cause him harm. 

There's an easy comparison guide for quick reference of eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises. The authors also include a glossary and a brief look at the differences between moths and butterflies. 

The authors learnt an incredible amount of information by simply observing the butterflies found in their own yards; it follows that if you plant the right garden and take the time to observe nature and document the findings, you may do the same. 

If you like this one, try: Nature-Friendly Garden by Marlene A. Condon; Butterflies and Moths by Barbara Taylor; and Eastern Butterflies by Paul A. Opler and Vichai Malikul.     

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