BOOK REVIEW: “Lepidopteran Zoology: How to Keep Moths, Butterflies, Caterpillars and Chrysalises” by Orin McMonigle

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.

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Since I was a child of seven, butterflies and moths have been my all-time favorite type of insect. I have so many fond memories of being out on warm sunny days with my butterfly net collecting whatever I could find. On days that I was really lucky I would also find caterpillars of the very butterflies and moths I was trying to capture on the wing. Unfortunately though there weren’t many books available detailing how to raise these amazing creatures.

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As luck would have it, during my 8th grade graduation trip, we ventured to the Boston Museum of Science where I would find a book that would change my life, “Moths and How to Rear Them” by Paul Villiard (reviewed HERE). I had never seen a book like this and to this day I reference it a lot, despite much of the information now being outdated. Since that book came out there really has not been anything available for up-and-coming lepidopterists and Villiard’s book has been out of print for many years, commanding very high prices on eBay. That has now all changed thanks to Orin McMonigle.

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When I found out about this book, knowing of McMonigle’s track record with his books, I knew I had to have it. It has been a long time coming that a new book on rearing butterflies and moths (with an emphasis on moths) has come out. Finally the kids of today have a relatively inexpensive reference book to use to broaden their knowledge of nature and butterflies and moths.

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This book is wonderful in so many ways. First off, it is a quick read which is vital for today’s short attention spanned kids. At 177 pages, the book starts with a background of Orin and his experiences growing up and his trials and tribulations when it came to keeping these animals alive. Like me, he had to learn a lot as he went as there just wasn’t a lot of guides to reference. He also goes into live butterfly exhibits around the world which is very important because these places are must-sees. If you are a parent and have a child expressing interests in nature, in particular with butterflies and moths, then I highly recommend nurturing that interest and if possible, visit one of these amazing places. When children learn to respect things as small as insects, they have a much greater respect for the world around them.

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Now to the meat of the book: the species. Like I mentioned before, the emphasis here is on moths over butterflies. Each species is covered in nice detail describing the appearances of the ova, larva, pupa and adults. In most cases, many photos are provided for each species showing the complete life cycle. The quality of the photos are great; there is never any doubt what you are looking at. Though I prefer the outlined approach that Paul Villiard created (12 categories for each species covering everything from scientific to common names to describing the appearance of all four life stages to preferred and alternate foodplants), McMonigle covers the same information in paragraph form. Though this may make finding specific information quickly more difficult, the information is there clearly and can easily be highlighted.

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He covers 14 species of the more commonly raised moths and 6 species of butterflies. Though this doesn’t seem like a lot, keep in mind that (1) he uses a lot of full color photos for each species and (2) this book is intended as an introduction to rearing butterflies and moths. This book is designed specifically for those just starting out in this wonderful hobby.

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Though I have been raising butterflies and moths for over 45 years, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to the child just starting to open their eyes to the beauty of lepidoptera or to the seasoned veteran. This is a must-have on every insect book shelf and it is one you will go back to time and time again.

~David Albaugh

 

 

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