The Lives of Butterflies - David D James & David J Lohman

With their captivating, fragile beauty, the remarkable survival and life of the butterfly has long fascinated and intrigued us. In this truly gorgeous book, entomologists, David D James and David J Lohman, cover the natural history of butterflies, answering our many questions and providing a window into their mysterious lives.

Book Review

book cover the lives of butterflies by James and Lohman

It's difficult to do justice to this fabulous book, but firstly, one must highlight the photography which makes it a feast for the eyes.  This is no surprise since the book is part of Princeton University Press 'The Lives of the Natural World' series, all of them being stunningly and richly illustrated.  The images within this book capture butterfly species in their natural environments with superb clarity, and in many cases, with razor-sharp definition of distinctive features, such as wing vein pattern, hair density and antennae profile.

The authors are renowned experts in their fields: David G. James is associate professor of entomology at Washington State University, with a background of authorship, editorship and further study in the subject matter of butterflies and related topics.   David Lohman is associate professor of biology at the City College of New York, and his résumé  includes work within Natural History museums, zoology and research into butterflies in Southeast Asia.

The book is pleasingly set out in sections that flow logically; starting with life histories (including a helpful overview of each of the 7 butterfly families, their characteristics and ecology); then behaviour; habitat; populations; seasonality; defense and natural enemies; and finally threats and conservation.  A short glossary and further snapshot of the butterfly families are then provided.

inside The Lives Of Butterflies book

Each section is written clearly, and the host of stunning photographs is complemented by drawings where they are useful to further illustrate the text. 

Portraits of specific species of interest from different regions across the world are also included within each section, for example: the amazing Monarch which migrates from North America to Mexico every fall; the magnificent Purple Emperor found in Europe; the beautiful Orchard Swallowtail of Australia and New Guinnea; the adorable Gyas Jewelmark that inhabits rainforests – and many more.

Gyas Jewelmark butterfly from The Lives Of Butterflies book

The book is packed with fascinating insights into the world of butterflies throughout, such as how feeding on milkweed makes the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies toxic to would-be predators; how the Oregon Swallowtail protects itself from predators by pretending to be bird droppings; how caterpillars of the Pale Imperial Hairstreak recruit ant bodyguards; and why some species participate in ‘puddling parties’.  

Although the book does contain (early on) a short section on taxonomy and nomenclature to place the butterfly species in context, it is not heavy on either through the book, making it an easy and enjoyable read that is highly accessible for a broad, nature-loving audience.

butterflies mating section from The Lives Of Butterflies book

In short, I wholeheartedly recommend this delightful book, especially for anyone interested in butterflies and pollinators, whether a backyard nature enthusiast or a student in a conservation, biology or entomology field.  If you have already fallen in love with the Princeton University Press 'The Lives of the Natural World' series, you won't be disappointed with this latest addition to your collection.

inside  The Lives Of Butterflies book

The Lives of Butterflies

David D. James & David J. Lohman

Princeton University Press

ISBN: 978-0-691-24056-5

Available to pre-order for January 2024 publication.

The Lives of Butterflies is available from Amazon

Amazon Affiliates statement:  Please note, when links from my website to Amazon are followed, I may earn a very small commission from sales from related purchases.  This is doe not affect my recommendation, and I only give positive reviews to books and goods I like.  Please see my  affiliates and advertising disclosure page.