Butterflies of Alabama
While shopping for a copy of the Cascadia butterflies book that I recently posted about, I found out about a book called Butterflies of Alabama. It came out September 7, 2010, according to Amazon. Sounded interesting so I bought a copy. Showed up today. I got it from Buy.com because they were selling a hardcover version vs. Amazon selling a paperback version (and Buy.com was cheaper too unless you get free shipping from Amazon). Anyway, the book is not what I would call hardcover but it isn't a paperback either. The cover feels like a stiff piece of cardboard that has been laminated. The binding looks solid so that is what matters to me. I'm trying to avoid 500 page paperbacks since those bindings don't seem to hold up.
The book is by Paulette Haywood Ogard, with photos by Sara Bright.. The book uses common names for butterflies and plants. Somewhere it talks about why and which list they used but now I cannot locate that page. The book covers Alabama's 84 "true" butterflies (you will not find any skippers in this book). Chapters cover families, broken down by species. In the back, each species gets half a page that shows which Alabama counties have verified records of that species being present.
This book is definitely not a field guide. There are lots of pictures but what you get for each butterfly varies. The same is true for how many pages and how many words per butterfly there are. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail gets 10 pages and pictures of all 4 stages. One butterfly got two pages and only adult pictures.
Hostplants found in Alabama are covered but sometimes the Alabama hostplant is unknown.
Book is filled with interesting tidbits. Eastern tiger is Alabama's official butterfly (probably why there are so many pages for it). BST cats spray bucolic acid from their osmeteria. ZST cats spray "chemicals derived from acetogenins, insecticidal pawpaw chemicals" from their osmeteria. Falcate orangetips retain some of their hostplant's mustard oils, which makes the butterfly distasteful. First and 2nd instar RSP cats "string their dung pellets onto the ends of leaf midribs and avoid ants and other walking predators by resting at the end of the frass chain. They also devise distracting balls of chewed leaf morsels and more dung, which they hang near the eaten portion of their leaf. The lightweight structures wave in the wind and may draw attention away from their tiny architects." Silvery checkerspots have almost disappeared from the northeastern US and author wonders if the Alabama populations are suffering too. 2nd brood imago ZSTs have longer tails than 1st brood imago. Some years, there is a 3rd brood which has extremely long tails (unfortunately there were no tail comparison pics - ZSTs got only 4 pages).
My favorite tidbit was the section on the Appalachian tiger swallowtail (Papilio appalachiensis). I do not remember hearing about this butterfly before. The book says the ATS was identified as a separate species in 2002 and was found in Alabama in 2008. Book explains the differences between the ATST and the ETST.
The book is not what I was expecting. I expected more cradle to grave info and pictures of caterpillars at different instars. But the cover does say "Glimpses into their lives," so I have to admit the cover did not lie. I'm glad I have it but it is not something I'm going to look at much during butterfly season, even if I did live in Alabama. I'm guessing the book does have some chrysalis pictures that I don't own in any other book but I have to identify strange chrysalids about once every 10 years.
Here is a link that might be useful: Book's webpage at Univeristy of Alabama Press, the publisher