Read of the Week

Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa

Steve Woodhall

Struik Nature

Review: Karen Watkins

The joy of butterfly-watching is that you can do it anywhere – from your apartment window, in the garden and, when the threat of Covid-19 is over, in a park, at the coast or in the mountains.

This comprehensive and easy-to-use field guide will open up a world of winged wonders and the important role they play in the environment.

Steve Woodhall’s first edition was published 15 years ago. Since then there has been a rise in use and quality of digital photography. This 464-page revised edition is beautifully illustrated with 1 850 colour photographs, with about 1 400 (70%), having not been published before.

This second edition also coincides with a massive growth in the number of observations of the 671 known butterflies in South Africa.

Many of them by citizen scientists who have contributed data and pictures that can be used by researchers.

The introduction includes fascinating information on butterfly behaviour, such as “hilltopping”. This term is usually associated with males claiming territory as females flit into the hills to search out the dominant butterfly.

To ease use, the maps show where the butterfly is likely to be seen, as opposed to its distribution. Many are endemic – occurring nowhere else in the world – such as the Table Mountain Brown Pseudonympha hippia; Tygerberg Hillside Brown Stygionympha dicksoni, Boland Brown Melampias huebneri and Table Mountain Beauty Aeropetes tulbaghia.

The guide covers identification, habits, flight periods, broods, typical habitat, distribution and larval food sources. It would make a great gift for a child.

Steve started watching, collecting and photographing butterflies at the age of 5 and went on to become president of the Lepidopterist Society of SA.