There is something about butterflies that captivates some people. They fulfil no ecological purpose, as they are not pollinators, they are not a source of food for a most animals as they are frequently full of poisons and unpalatable substances, they just seem to exist because nature can make it so. Regardless of their purpose, these brightly coloured little insects have enthralled people for years. From the time he first caught one at the age of five, Peter Marren was one of those captivated by these beguiling insects. So began a hobby that has lasted a lifetime, first hunting them for his collection, then rearing them when he realised that what he was doing was not sustainable.
However, this is not another guidebook about butterflies, rather a guidebook about butterfly lovers. Marren’s deep passion about his subject is evident as he brings us the stories and potted biographies and histories of those that have had a similar passion to him. We learn about the Rothschild family members who were equally besotted, what John Fowles and Vladimir Nabokov liked to collect and how butterflies have inspired countless artists and writers. He guides us through the extinctions of some and the reintroduction of the Large Blue and takes us through the life cycle right from the egg to the next generation.
His writing is authoritative without being tiresome and it flits along at a fair old pace. It is also a warning; we have been persecuting all sorts of wildlife in this country, and the relentless push to greater efficiency and cost savings has put butterflies and many of their habitats in peril. I liked the mix of solid science and research with a series of personal stories and it is a really good general book in the study of his favourite insect.