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Great little butterfly guide
on 9 November 2009
Butterflies are undoubtedly the most popular group of insects and this is reflected by the wide range of books available to help identify them, so what then are the chief selling points of this little guide?
The Philip's guide is the latest version of a book that began life as the RSNC Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Ireland in 1986 and the publication of the current version (in 2007) allowed for extensive revision and updating to reflect changes in the status of the butterflies since the earlier edition as well as the changing state of our knowledge and understanding of their biology.
One of the key differences between the Philip's guide and many of its competitors is the fact that it is restricted to the butterflies of Britain and Ireland. This means that it will not be a satisfactory choice for anyone intending to use it on butterfly hunting holidays on the European continent where there are about six or seven times as many species as are found in the British Isles. The benefit gained however is that it allows much more space to be allocated to each species in what remains a slender volume that would not weigh you down on a foray into the field.
Each species is thus accorded a two page spread which provides a much more detailed account than is the case in most field guides. The text, by Jeremy Thomas, is clearly written and provides an informative portrait of each species and its biology. The text is supported by clear diagrams that indicate the typical time of year at which one can expect to encounter each life stage and life cycle drawings that indicate the habitat in which each of the immature life stages occurs as well as indicating what it looks like.
For the illustration of adult butterflies opinions differ as to the relative merits of paintings versus photographs but this guide opts to provide the best of both worlds. In a section near the beginning of the book, each species is illustrated at approximately life size by the well known insect painter Richard Lewington. These high quality illustrations show both upper and undersides of each sex and are annotated in order to highlight key identification features. In the individual species accounts that follow, each species is further illustrated by decent photographs that show the insect in typical attitude and habitat as the reader might encounter it in the wild.
Overall, then this is an excellent little guide that is well worth its purchase price.