Butterflies of Pennsylvania: a field guideButterflies of Pennsylvania: A Field Guide
By James L. Monroe & David M. Wright
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017
328 pp., 900+ color illus., checklist of species
Paper/flex bound, $24.95

Have you ever been outside on a warm day in Pennsylvania, spotted a butterfly, and wondered what species it was? With “Butterflies of Pennsylvania” you will have to wonder no longer. This handy field guide encompasses the range of butterflies and skippers (the term for smaller, stout-bodied butterflies) you are most likely to see across the state. Of the roughly 725 species in North America, 156 have been recorded in Pennsylvania to date.

The last review of Pennsylvania butterflies and skippers occurred 65 years ago so the authors saw a well-overdue need to create an updated comprehensive guide. Made for students, educators, experts, and those just curious about butterflies, this guidebook presents itself in an organized manner with color-coded species accounts across the top of the pages. In addition to mounted specimen photos for each butterfly, Monroe’s photographs taken in nature must be commended as they are beautifully sharp and add needed context to the field guide.

The book includes all the basics for identifying each species based on what both males and females look like on top and bottom sides (ventral and dorsal) and where and when they fly throughout the year. State maps are helpful to show the counties where each species has been documented historically and more recently. Preferred butterfly habitats also direct butterfly seekers to where they might be found and observed. Additionally, there is a brief list of plants recommended for butterfly gardening to bring them to you whether you live in the city or the suburbs. The only feature missing from this book is caterpillar identification for each species which would have been a welcome addition.

Careful thought was put into the user experience with the book by having all the information on a species on one page or facing pages. Additionally, there is a checklist in the back of the book that allows users to record when they have spotted each species in the wild and any other data about the sighting they might wish to keep like dates and locations. As is stated in the introduction, “Data from all sources help advance knowledge of our state butterfly fauna.” Collecting this kind of information provides important evidence that can help answer scientists’ questions about butterfly distributions, abundance, and conservation effects. It can also offer insights about how environmental factors such as pollution can affect ecosystems and adds to the available data that can help ensure the safety and survival of butterflies for the future.

If you would like to contribute your butterfly data or learn more on this subject, please visit the North American Butterfly Association’s website.

Reviewed by Liz Simpson, Assistant Editor/Assistant Registrar, Heinz History Center

Date August 24, 2017
  • Western Pennsylvania History Magazine