Jim Asher (ed) - The Millennium Atlas of Butterflies in Britain and Ireland

Oxford University Press £30.00
ISBN 0198505655

Butterflies are something I always intend to take more of an interest in. I see them all the time, but so far I haven’t got beyond being able to confuse the Large White with the Small White and the Peacock with the Red Admiral. Pathetic, really. Every now and again (more again than now, with so many species under threat) I see an interesting blue, or on a red-letter day, brown butterfly, and by the time I get home I can’t remember what it looked like well enough to distinguish it from twenty other similar ones in the book. And my edition of the Observer’s Book of Butterflies is no use, because it is so old that half the illustrations are in monochrome, which is neither use nor ornament as far as the desperate butterfly watcher is concerned.

The bad news about this book is that it is too big to put in your pocket, unless you have an extra big poacher’s pocket and want to walk like a man whose truss has got a knot in it. But, it is totally wonderful, with fantastic colour pictures of every butterfly, and very often its caterpillar, eggs and pupa too. There are excellent distribution charts which confirm that it can’t have been a Scotch Argus I saw in Guildford last year, and every species has at least three pages of text describing it in detail. Perhaps the most interesting sections are the outlook for each species, and the final chapter, which looks at the challenges butterflies face and how they might overcome them.



Out of print