The monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, is perhaps the most popular butterfly in the world. Its large size and contrasting orange and black coloration make it highly recognizable and its annual migration of up to 3,000 miles south make it seen by more people than perhaps any other species of butterfly in the world.
There are new books on butterflies coming out all the time and I usually find out about them accidentally, usually by them showing up as a recommendation on Amazon based on my search history. When the book “Butterflies of North America” came up I was really unsure how it was going to be. The feedback on Amazon was decent but as many people know, you cannot always rely on these reviews. Thankfully the reviews ended up being based in fact!
The red admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, is one of the most widespread butterflies in the United States. It belongs to the Nymphalidae family and is known for its bright red forewing bands contrasted by the black and white that covers the remainder of its wings. They are fast, erratic flyers and are often confused with painted ladies, who are the same size and fly the same way. Oftentimes it is not until one actually lands that a positive identification can be made.
If you are a regular reader here then the name Orin McMonigle should not be new to you. I have read many of his books and even reviewed one of them HERE. Orin reminds me of myself on so many levels as I too have spent my life keeping live creepy crawlies and what he is doing is providing sound information for those like-minded people.
I am not going to lie. When I found this book on Amazon I had really high hopes. I have been a keeper of tarantulas for over 40 years and over these years have amassed a decent library of books on tarantulas. The books vary from just ok to phenomenal with some being used as a constant reference source.
This biggest problem with tarantula books is that they try to cover a lot but have space constraints so in many cases, extremely detailed information ends up being lacking especially when it comes to individual species. My initial thought when seeing this book was, “Finally! Someone has written a whole book dedicated to a single species of tarantula!” I always thought individual guides on individual species would be priceless. In the case of this book, it just falls flat.
The Luna Moth (Actias luna) is one of the most spectacular of the giant Saturniid moths from the United States. With its green colors and long delicate tails, it is breathtaking to see live and in person, especially for the first time! According to the amazing book “The Wild Silk Moths of North America: A Natural History of the Saturniidae of the United States and Canada” by Paul M. Tuskes, James P. Tuttle and Michael M. Collins, this species can be found throughout most of the eastern part of North America. There are two seasonal forms, with those hatching in the spring being a more intense green in color whereas those hatching in the summer tend to be more yellowish. The spring forms also have a more vibrant purple outer wing margin. I have found them very easy to rear on both walnut and sweetgum, with the only real issues being overcrowding which tends to attract yellow jackets and birds, who love to eat the caterpillars, especially when using net bags on the branches of trees.
Welcome to part one of a series I am doing called Species Spotlight. Each entry will showcase one particular species of invertebrate, whether it’s a butterfly, a moth, an arachnid or a millipede. Wherever possible I will use my own photographs and each entry will feature general information of the species as well as any additional notes that I can add, based on working with said species. The topic of this entry is the Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philenor.