Sunday, 6 September 2020

Life cycles of British and Irish butterflies by Peter Eeles

When your usual life of rock gigs, sport and nights out is taken away how does one stay sane and interested during a hot spell when driving out is a no-no? What new interests can a man find to take the place of NWOCR, football or trips to the pub, gallery or theatre?

Butterflies, that's what. This review is taken from my Goodreads page and shows how it captured my interest and gave me something to focus on each evening on my rambles out. I took some great photos too. Butterflies are the new rock n roll. 

Life Cycles of British and Irish ButterfliesLife Cycles of British and Irish Butterflies
by Peter Eeles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a bit of nature, me. I'm no Chris Packham but I know a fair bit about birds and stuff, enough to make a walk interesting. One group of animals I'm not so hot on are insects and a while back I threw my hat into the ring on a BBC Wildlife competition and was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book by Peter Eeles. It's a weighty, glossy tome and sat proudly on my bookshelf with a few other book about birds.
Lockdown came along and I, like many others, found myself stuck on my own for days on end with glorious weather outside. I walked every evening and started noticing the butterflies and decided this would be my new focus to keep myself busy - something new to learn a bit about. I dusted off the book and read it from cover to cover. I didn't mean to, but butterflies are fascinating!
Some species of butterfly rarely wander more than a few hundred metres and colonies can take decades to spread a few miles. Your Painted Lady, though, migrates from Africa and back on high wind currents. But that's not the only incredible thing - this migration takes several generations to get from one place to the other.
Did you know many species of butterfly have symbiotic relationships with ants? The butterfly have a 'honey glands' which produce a sweet substance attractive to ants. In return the ants protect the larva from predators. In some cases such as the Large Blue the ants take the larva into their nests where they pupate after feeding on ant grubs.
Butterflies are pretty similar in style aren't they? They might differ in size and colour but generally they are an easily distinguishable shape. Their larva aren't. They come in all sorts of sizes and levels of hairiness and can differ considerably between the different stages of larva) known as instars). Some blend incredibly with their chosen foodplant, others mimic ant larva to get protectio.
Some butterflies winter in their pupae whereas others winter as eggs before hatching into larva. Some larva winter as a particular instar before continuing their lifecycle. Honestly, they're really really incredible animals.
Eeles knows his stuff. Every single butterfly has detailed lifecycles accompanied by clear phots - many of which are taken by the author. He has remembrances of his sightings of different species and examples of when he has reared some at home.
This book will retain pride of place on my shelf and I'm already about 12 species into ticking off the ones I've spotted and identified using it. I'd say every home should have one but at about £30 it's a bit too much for anyone other than the really interested person but you get what you pay for - this must be the greatest British butterfly book of all-time.

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