Who doesn’t love seeing a butterfly fluttering through the garden? Adrian Hoskins must because he has spent the last 35 years studying and photographing them in various parts of the world. The study and conservation of butterflies has been a lifelong passion for Hoskins, a passion that began when he was a boy. Hoskins spent many years working voluntarily for Butterfly Conservation in England, as well as leading many butterfly watching tours, and entomological expeditions. Hoskins is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a rare honour shared with past great naturalists such as Charles Darwin, Henry Bates and Alfred Russel Wallace.
Hoskins latest book is 1,000 Butterflies: An illustrated guide to the world’s most beautiful butterflies. The title says it all which makes this book an essential addition to any butterfly enthusiast’s library, or the libraries of complete bug nerds like me. Inside the book there is indeed a photograph of 1,000 different butterflies from various parts of the world, including Australia. All the photographs are of live specimens and are clear, crisp, and neutral. The photographic reproductions are of a very high standard which makes the colours of the butterflies appear as they are in nature. The entire publication is of high quality making it a very attractive book indeed.
The images are reproduced at a size sufficient to see the fine detail of most of the butterflies. In the main body of the book there are a maximum of four butterflies to a page, and some species have a page all to themselves. This is an illustrated guide where images have supremacy over text, which means there is little room for information about each butterfly beyond where it occurs geographically and ecologically.
The flyleaf of the book suggests that 1,000 Butterflies is an ideal companion title to Hoskins’ other book, Butterflies of the World. The cynic in me suggests that a publisher would say that when they publish both titles, but in this case they are correct. Butterflies of the World has opening chapters that cover the evolution, anatomy, lifecycle, ecology and taxonomy of the world’s butterflies. 1,000 Butterflies does not have such chapters. The Introduction, all three pages of it, only covers the number of butterflies in the world, the difference between moths and butterflies, and some basic information on taxonomy and nomenclature.
There is no information on lifecycles in this book, and not one picture of larvae (caterpillars). That makes this book of limited use to gardeners hoping to identify the caterpillars on their plants. It’s also of limited use to gardeners hoping to identify the adult butterflies in their garden. In the book the butterflies are separated by family but not by region, so you will probably flick through a great number of pages before you find what you are looking for. It would have been useful to have listed each country’s butterflies in the index, but alas.
A better bet for Australian gardeners who want to identify butterflies in their garden is The Complete Field Guide to the Butterflies of Australia written by Michael Braby and published by CSIRO Publishing. I must confess a vested interest here – I was the photographer for this book. Braby’s book gives vital information such as size and behaviour, along with distribution maps, and photographs of the upper and lower side of both male and female butterflies to help you identify butterflies. Braby’s book also lists larval food plants for each species which is of great help to anyone trying to identify the caterpillars on their plants.
However, the strength of 1,000 Butterflies lies with its photographic images and the exquisite creatures they document. Just randomly open the book at any page and marvel at how wonderful nature can be. The page 218-219 spread reveals a Godart’s Altinote (an iridescent blue and orange stunner from Central America), a Leopard Lacewing (a multi-coloured beauty from SE Asia), and a Red Lacewing (a gorgeous orange and red patterned Asian butterfly). Some of the images, such as that of the Pardalina Glory from the Amazon, make you want to jump on a plane and go find one.
If you collect books with great photographs of beautiful creatures from exotic locations, this is the book for you. I congratulate Adrian Hoskins and the publishers Reed New Holland for releasing such a sumptuous book. It is the best of its kind.
Author: Adrian Hoskins
New Holland Publishers, September 2016
Hardback, 352 pages
Book Size: 24.0 x 19.0 x 4.1 mm
RRP: $40.00 AU
Available online and from all good book stores.