For me, seeing butterflies in my yard, or out on a hike is a thrill, especially if there is a lot of them. Growing up, butterfly populations were much higher than they are today, which just adds to the thrill when you see something you haven’t seen in awhile. It’s nice to know that they’re still there.
I often wondered what it was like to live in places like Brazil, Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea and seeing their butterflies in their natural habitats, To see birdwing or morpho butterflies flying in nature must be breathtaking. For most of us, they only way that we can even come close to experiencing this is at live butterfly exhibits throughout the United States.
Not only have I visited many of these exhibits, I worked at one for a few summers here in Rhode Island and even did the plant design and planting of the one that the Zoo I work at had for two seasons. The Newport Butterfly Zoo was my first experience of a live butterfly exhibit and though it was a very simple set-up, it was very effective. It was here that I got to see for the first time birdwing and morpho butterflies flying. Though the exhibit I designed was for local species only, it was also effective, a lot of work, but also very rewarding.
Since then I have visited many of these places throughout the United States, being fascinated by how each places chooses to set up and run their exhibit. No two places look alike and even individual places may change from year to year. The one thing that seems to remain constant though is the species of butterflies and moths exhibited, probably because all of these places uses many of the same suppliers.
Oftentimes, these places have posters or fact sheets identifying the butterflies that you may see. Some are attached to the walls, usually next to the pupa hatching area and some are printed and laminated to be brought with you as you explore. Though both methods work, I always thought it would be neat to have an actual field guide that not only could you take with you through the exhibit, but then take home with you to help you identify anything you may have taken pictures of. Though the subject of this review came out in 2017, I only found out about it this year, and is now a book I will bring with me to all visits to like butterfly exhibits.
The author of “A Field Guide to Tropical Butterflies of American Conservatories,” Christopher Kline, served as the butterfly specialist at Franklin Park Conservatory where he worked with over 150 species of tropical butterflies. He did this for six years before creating and becoming the director of Butterfly Ridge Butterfly Conservation Center in Rockbridge, OH, which he does to this day.
One of his other books, “Butterfly Gardening with Native Plants,” which I reviewed previously HERE, is what initially made me aware of the author and all that he has done. This book is the perfect size to bring with you as you visit these live butterfly exhibits and to be honest, I think should be available for sale in all of their gift shops. Not only will it make identifying what you are seeing fun, it’s a nice memento of your visit.
The book starts with a brief introduction and goes on to tell the reader how to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth, which is one of the questions I was asked most while being a tour guide at the Newport, Rhode Island, exhibit. There is also a section of butterfly life-cycles and then there is a quick reference guide illustrating the species covered and showing what page to go to for more information on that species.
The book is very easy to use and it’s set-up is perfect. The quick reference guide will definitely expedite identifying what you are seeing, Then, when you go to the species’ main page, you will see larger photos, usually showing upper and lower wings, and in some cases male and female. There is also a picture of each species’ chrysalis so that you know what they hatch out of looks like.
Each species includes the common and scientific names, the native range, preferred habitat, caterpillar host plant, adult food and then a paragraph or so talking about the species. The pictures are fantastic and for anyone who has tried to photograph butterflies, you know that they usually do not cooperate.
Over one hundred species are covered and if you take this book with you, and you have kids, it will be a useful tool getting them to help you identify what you are seeing. It is also a nice reference guide just in general and I think it should be in all Lepidoptera libraries. To order your copy just click on the image below.
To visit the Butterfly Ridge website, and find out more about Christopher Kline and all of the wonderful work he is doing, you can go HERE.