An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect

An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: $15.99
Publication Year: 2003
ISBN: 0465071600

Butterflies have always served as a metaphor for resurrection and transformation. In this lyrical meditation, Sharman Apt Russell reveals the logic behind our endless fascination with butterflies and introduces us to the legendary collectors and dedicated scientists who have obsessively cataloged new species of Lepidoptera. A luminous journey through an exotic world of passion, biology, and beauty, this is a book to be treasured by anyone who has ever experienced the enchantment of butterflies.

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About the Book

From Publishers Weekly

As she did in Anatomy of a Rose, Russell focuses on the natural world here, now concentrating on insects that have long fascinated humans with their beauty, grace and magical ability to transform themselves from lowly caterpillars. According to the author, there are about 18,000 species of known butterflies, varying in color, mating behavior and migratory patterns. Russell merges wit, knowledge and poetic language in this engaging scientific rumination, recounting the stories of several obsessed collectors, including Eleanor Granville, who, in the early 1700s, was declared insane because of her hobby. Vladimir Nabokov is known to entomologists as the man who not only discovered several butterfly species, but reclassified North and South American blues. Russell provides many interesting anecdotes about butterfly mating practices and explains the difference between moths and butterflies. The monarch, for example, drops on the female and forces her to the ground, while a male queen butterfly more sensitively attracts his mate by the scent of the alkaloids he has ingested for this purpose. Some species, like male Apollos, are able to glue a sphragis, or shell, over the female’s abdomen that functions as a chastity belt to prevent her from remating and losing the original male’s sperm. Russell has produced a well researched and beautifully written natural history of these colorful insects.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


An Obsession with Butterflies is itself a singular work of art, with its smooth, ethereal prose.” — San Diego Union Tribune“A masterpiece of storytelling.” — Seattle Times

“Evocative… An Obsession with Butterflies offers a short but engrossing tour of their fascinating world.” — Wall Street Journal

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