Life Cycles of British and Irish Butterflies
Over the past decade or so, Peter Eeles has patiently compiled photographs of every stage of the life cycle of every regularly breeding British butterfly, 59 species in all. The result is a profusely illustrated book which documents the development of the butterfly from egg to adult in greater detail than ever before.
Each species receives around 20 colour photographs, showing first the adults (both sexes and undersides), then the egg (freshly laid and pre-hatching), the caterpillar (all instars – usually five – plus pre-pupal stage), and finally the pupa (normal state and pre-emergence). Each account is prefaced by a full-page pictorial summary of the life cycle, grouped in a circle around a shot of the typical habitat. Add to that an illustrative introduction to each family, distribution maps and a phenogram showing the time of appearance for each stage, and you have about the most fully illustrated British butterfly book there has ever been. The quality of the layout and the sharpness of the images are superb. Most of the pictures have a peaceful air, but the picture on page 354 of a Large Blue caterpillar nonchalantly munching an ant grub may turn your stomach.
The text goes into each butterfly’s life cycle in detail, along with notes on distribution, habitat and status, and even a bit about the origin of butterfly names. But the glory of the book lies in its colour images. If the author ever gets around to a revised edition, I hope that he will add the Long-tailed Blue, which is rapidly becoming a regular, breeding migrant, as British as a Painted Lady.Reviewed by - Peter Marren