Tag Archives: North American butterflies

A guide to the butterflies (book review)

A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America is a field guider’s field guide. It is the shape and size of a traditional field guide. The designers of this book said “we don’t need no stinking margins” so there are no margins. Color bleeds on the page edges allow a quick index to major butterfly categories. There is a two page spread visual index. A no nonsense introduction give you the basics about how to use the book, how to be a butterflyer, and how to not be a jerk about butterflies (like, don’t net them and kill them). The front covers even have those flaps that you can use as bookmarks.

Ranges are an interesting problem with butterflies, since their biogeography is both very heterogeneous and in some cases rapidly changing. Also, a key feature of their breeding ranges is not so much when they are there, but how many times they cycle through broods over the warm months. So the maps are interesting:

A species entry is jammed with info. The color of the species name indicates something about its range, and key information about habitat, timing of adult phase, etc. is pulled out and highlighted. And so on. I’m giving a few examples of the pages here so you have an idea of how no nonsense serious this book is as a field guide. This is the book in which you find the butterfly, no question.

This guide, by Jeffry Glassberg, world expert on butterflies, is the revised second edition of what has always been recognized as the most usable and detailed field guid for the average intense person. 3,500 photographs cover all known species in the region, depicting details and variants.

The guide is photographic, but using modern techniques to this approach (which, in the old days, was usually not as good as drawing) so you have the best illustrations in this book.

See also: Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed: An amazing new book


The information about each species in together with all the other information about each species.

Species are grouped in major categories that are essentially morphological. So you go, “look, there’s a skipper” and look it up in the section on skippers.

This is an excellent must have field guide.

From the publisher’s site:

Jeffrey Glassberg is a leading butterfly authority and author. He is president of the North American Butterfly Association, editor of American Butterflies magazine, and the author of many books, including the Butterflies through Binoculars series. He is adjunct professor of evolutionary biology at Rice University and lives in Morristown, New Jersey.

The Table of Contents:

Introduction 7
About This Book 7
Butterfly Identification 7
Butterfly Biology 8
Names 9
Interacting with Butterflies 9
“Releasing” Butterflies 10
Conservation 11
North American Butterfly Association 11
Wing Areas and Body Parts 12
About the Species Accounts 13
Abbreviations, Symbols and Glossary 14
About the Maps 15
Swallowtails Papilionidae 16
Parnassians Parnassiinae 16
True Swallowtails Papilioninae 18
Whites and Yellows Pieridae 36
Whites Pierinae 36
Marbles and Orangetips 46
Yellows Coliadinae 52
Sulphurs 52
Yellows 68
Gossamerwings Lycaenidae 74
Coppers Lycaeninae 74
Harvester Miletinae 83
Hairstreaks Theclinae 84
Blues Polyommatinae 122
Metalmarks Riodinidae 146
Brushfoots Nymphalidae 158
Heliconians and Fritillaries Heliconiinae 158
Heliconians 158
Greater Fritillaries 162
Lesser Fritillaries 182
True Brushfoots Nymphalinae 190
Patches, Checkerspots and Crescents 190
Anglewings, Ladies and Relatives 220
Admirals and Relatives Limenitidinae et al. 232
Leafwings Charaxinae 246
Emperors Apaturinae 250
Snouts Libytheinae 253
Satyrs Satyrinae 254
Ticlears, Clearwings Ithomiinae 277
Mimic-Queen and Monarchs Danainae 277
Skippers Hesperiidae 280
Firetips Pyrrhopyginae 280
Spreadwing Skippers Pyrginae 280
Skipperlings Heteropterinae 332
Grass-Skippers Hesperiinae 334
Giant-Skippers Megathyminae 394
Hawaii 400
Photo Credits 402
Selected Bibliography 403
Selected Websites 403
Caterpillar Foodplant Index 404
Butterfly Species Index 408
Visual Index 418