Top positive review
152 people found this helpful
Good field guide for the interested amateur...
on September 14, 2000
This field guide has significant strengths and weaknesses. First, the strengths. This book provides what most casual butterfly enthusiasts want, page after page of photos of butterflies (several hundred photos as a matter of fact). The photographs are good, for the most part, showing differences and similarities between many butterflies included in the book. (Most taxonomic characters are not readily seen in photos though.) One particularly helpful feature is that for many butterflies, such as skippers and those bearing eye-spots, both the upper and underside of wings are shown.
The butterflies are arranged, for the most part, by wing coloration or shape. This can help with more rapid field identification. There is also a section in the back of the guide that provides more information on butterflies listed.
The book is a convenient size, readily able to fit into a jacket or back pocket.
OK, now for the weaknesses.
As with other field guides published by the Audubon Soc...I can't figure out why the editors didn't include the scientific names along with the common names by each photo. If you want to use this book for any kind of taxonomic work, it becomes an annoying exercise in page flipping from the front to the back of the book. More serious entomologists will, of course, use taxonomic keys to identify specimens, but for the amateur collector who may not have or know how to use such keys, the format of the book can be frustrating.
There are too few photos of caterpillars, chrysalises, etc. at the front of the book. I know of no field guide that provides much on early life stages, and this guide is no different. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased that they included a section on caterpillars, I just wish there were more.
There is very little information on the kinds of characteristics usually used in butterfly taxonomy...antenna type, wing veination, etc...presented in the book. A significant weakness.
Even with the large number of photographs, a photo cannot, in my opinion, do the same job of a well-done illustration in helping someone identify what they are looking at. As photo-based guides on butterflies, this is probably one of the best out there. Still, I wish there were a good general guide based on illustrations.
With that said, it is important to realize that no single field guide can ever hope to be comprehensive in treating the butterflies. There are simply too many species and variations out there to make a portable field guide.
With all that said, I think that this is a good, useful guide, but with a few changes it could be even better.
Happy butterfly spotting!
Alan Holyoak, Dept of Biology, Manchester College, IN