“The Dangerous World of Butterflies” by Peter Laufer, PhD
(Happy 2013, everyone! I’ve officially begun my “not buying any new/used books until I’ve read all the books I own and haven’t read” project, so here goes!)
Peter Laufer’s “The Dangerous World of Butterflies” is a book full of wonderment for the reader. In these pages, he takes us behind the pretty colors of butterflies as a sweet and magical insect, and delves into things like illegal butterfly trade, the battle between purists and the commercial breeders who sell them for things like wedding releases, and even the sort of creepier aspects of butterfly life.
Did you know that male butterflies will sit on a pupa that is a few days away from hatching a female butterfly, and will puncture the skin of the pupa to mate with the female who hasn’t even hatched into a butterfly yet?
Me neither. Geez! The things you learn from books.
The story behind the book is almost as good as the book itself. Laufer is a journalist whose previous books include works on Iraq and life in prison. It was at a speaking event when he made a quip about his next book being about “butterflies and flowers” that triggered the research behind this incredibly smart book. He was invited to a butterfly preserve in Nicaragua, and was off and running.
The most interesting parts of the book include the story of a Fish and Wildlife officer who wound up capturing the “world’s most wanted butterfly smuggler,” and a section dealing with how the creation of a border wall along the Rio Grande will be devastating to butterfly habitats. The book is pro-conservation, and Laufer becomes a sort of unintentional advocate for butterfly preservation. There are a couple duller segments, but nothing that made me want to stop reading. (Also, for the Chicagoans, Laufer visits the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum butterfly haven, which is a lovely place I’ve been to several times and will never stop marveling at.)
For those of you who dig science and a good non-fiction read, this might be the book for you. It’s made me look at butterflies in a different light.