This book is a great read. We should be grateful that we now have the opportunity to read this book, first published in German in 2018, in English.
The author is a distinguished German entomologist. The book’s title is just slightly misleading in that it is not just about the disappearance of butterflies, for two reasons. It’s partly about moths, and other insects and plants and everything but, fair enough, it is centred on butterflies. More importantly it is not only about their decline but it is to a large extent about their biology; in fact the book is in two parts, Part 1 The biology of lepidoptera and Part 2 the disappearance of lepidoptera.
Part 1 is a real treat for someone like me who can identify butterflies quite well, likes them, is interested in them and would like to know more about them. And the good thing about Germany is that it isn’t that far away and so most of the butterflies discusssed are our butterflies too – that helps. Two of the chapters in Part 1 are Brimstones the first spring butterflies and The nettle-feeding lepidoptera; an instructive community, but we also get The fascinating life of aquatic moths (see! I said it wasn’t just butterflies).
Part 2 is also a treat and this is a hard-hitting critique of two familiar things; industrial agriculture (in The inhospitality of the countryside) and obsessive mowing of community spaces, often for no earthly reason (in The devastating effect of communal maintenance measures). The author also has a go at light pollution and a range of other factors.
The perspective of a senior German entomologist is sufficiently different from the usual fare of British ornithologists that the book feels refreshingly original. The descriptions of biology are wonderfully clear and the analysis of what’s going wrong is wonderfully trenchant. Guess what? Yes, I loved both.
The cover is slightly odd in that flocks of Monarchs are flying around in it. So the title is slightly misleading (as they often are) in a couple of ways and the cover is slightly misleading in another way but none of that matters (except I might have picked this book up to read and review a couple of weeks ago if they had been different) because the book is very good. So good, that it goes straight into my shortlist for this blog’s book of the year, which I will reveal on Sunday 16 November, after also revealing Stephen Moss’s review of wildlife and environmental books of 2020 and his book of the year on Friday 14 November.
The Disappearance of Butterflies by Joseph H. Reicholf is published by Polity Press.[registration_form]