The Life Cycles of Butterflies


May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
~Irish Blessing


I have been fascinated by butterflies my whole life.  Their beauty and mystery delights me and has me running from my house chasing them around the garden trying to capture their image on my camera.  There is interesting Native American folklore about butterflies.  If you see butterflies it symbolizes that you are going through a transformation.  The one above came in late October last year as I was working in the garden and stayed right next to me enjoying the aster’s nectar before leaving for its migration south.  This weekend we had another late monarch for a brief visit in the garden.  At work my job is definitely going through a transformation so this butterfly sighting is very appropriate.

Last  month I reviewed a great book about insects,  The Secret Lives of Backyard Bugs, by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards.  I liked the book so much I decided to review the authors’ first book, The Life Cycles of Butterflies.  I have become more aware of butterflies over the last 5 years; what host plant will bring butterflies into my garden, and what nectar plants they prefer.  I hope to continue to add more host plants in my garden, and observe the life cycle of many different butterflies up close and personal.  So this book seems like a perfect resource.

I am linking in with Holley@Roses and Other Gardening Joys and her monthly Garden Book Review meme that takes place on the 20th of every month.


The Life Cycles of Butterflies


by  Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Storey Publishing, LLC (April 1, 2006)
List Price:  $ 16.95
Amazon Price: $11.30 (Paperback)





In A Few Words

The book starts with an introductory section detailing how a butterfly lays its eggs, how the caterpillar grows including all its parts, then onto how the chrysalis is formed, the butterfly is born and ending with a day in the life of a butterfly.  This small section alone is fascinating and I learned a lot.

The rest of the book (80% of it) is all about 23 different butterflies from Swallowtails to Fritillaries, Commas, Question Marks, RedAdmirals, Monarch, Cabbage Whites, Pearl Crescents, Buckeyes, American and Painted Ladies, Monarchs, Viceroys and more.  Each one is detailed from egg to aged chrysalis to mature butterfly.  In the Field Notes section for each butterfly, you will also see wing patterns, open- and closed-wing shots, the color variations of the male and female butterflies as well as breeding maps, interesting highlights and the life cycle season in months.  They also include the best host and nectar plants to attract and feed the caterpillars and adults.  What a resource that is.  Each butterfly has 4 pages chock full of all this information with stunning photographs.

The back of the book features a photo comparison of different eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises.  Add to this a glossary, a comparison of moths and butterflies and a bunch more butterflies that have less detailed information but great pictures, and you have a fabulous resource.  But wait! There is one more section (all about plants) that is not to be missed.  Oh well,  you have to keep reading to learn more about that.


What I Liked

There are so many wonderful aspects of this book.  First the photography will blow you away.  These pictures were taken in Judy and her brother’s garden as they were documenting these beautiful creatures.  I also like that they have featured the most common butterflies that you will find throughout a large part of the US.  Some are in other parts of the world too so this book would be useful in  North America and parts of Europe.  And with the photos is succinct text giving you the most important facts.

It helps to know where the breeding ranges are and dates of their life cycle so you know if and when you can attract them to your garden.  So I really appreciated this information.  I also loved the Field Notes adding other tidbits of info like how to find an American Lady amongst the leaves of my pearly everlasting plant.  But the best part after the 23 butterflies is the plant section.  They have pictures and details about the top host plants again outlining which butterflies the plant will attract.  And they give their top picks for nectar plants that draw in the most butterflies.  For wildlife gardeners, these plant sections give critical information in one handy reference.


Not So Much

Again I am hard pressed to find something I didn’t like.  Perhaps as Judy and Wayne learn more details about the other butterflies in the back section, they will publish a part 2 book.


Final Thoughts

I have other butterfly resource guides chock full of pictures and information as well as apps on my iTouch, but none compare to this book.  Mostly because of the pictures.  There are so many richly colored pictures that it is easy to pick out the butterfly that is visiting.  And easier to attract and feed them if you plant just a few of their recommended plants.  This books makes planting a butterfly garden easy since it really is all about the plants.

If you love butterflies, then I recommend you add this book to your library.  I think it makes a great gift for children, teachers, wildlife enthusiasts and gardeners.




The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.  ~Rabindranath Tagore


Special Note:  Books reviewed here at Gardens Eye View were purchased by me and were not gifts from publishers.

And all butterfly pictures were taken in my garden.  You can see their names by holding your cursor over the picture.


Next up on the blog:     On Wednesday I’ll share another favorite native wildflower, helianthus.  Then at the end of the month I’ll have some thoughts about rain.  The first Monday will bring us to another Garden’s Eye Journal to wrap up October.

I will be linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month on the 3rd Tuesday, at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my current post now.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2012.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

36 Replies to “The Life Cycles of Butterflies”

  1. Ever since I first read U.S.A. blogs, I’ve wished we could have Monarch butterflies here too. This summer, one was spotted locally. How / why it came, don’t know. Whether it’s a one off or there will be more – I don’t suppose anyone knows – but it would be wonderful. (At least, to look at – what would happen next?)

    1. Sometimes monarchs are blown off course by strong storms and that may have happened. Now wouldn’t it be great if a few showed up and they created a few and so on. Of course they need milkweed. Love to see them spread. In parts of the western US they overwinter there now instead of going to Mexico. Well we never know do we.

  2. I need to look for this book. I’ve been wanting to learn more about butterflies. I see the monarchs are active in your garden. They are wonderful here too and loving those asters as well.

  3. My goal in this new garden of mine is to have it teeming with wildlife….

    It will happen, I know that it will take time. But as I see more and more butterflies, birds, and frogs, I know that I am going in the right direction.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

    1. I miss then too Becky. Sorry I have been absent visiting your wonderful blog. Work has been too busy. I will drop by soon. Stay safe as we await Sandy…hoping you are missed by this storm.

  4. Did you see more butterflies and different varieties this year? It seemed like a great year for butterflies. I am near the Butterfly Conservancy in Ontario and it is a place I love to visit. This sounds like a nice reference book for the butterflies that visit our area.

    1. Yes Donna I did see so many more varieties and that was because I was able to have more nectar and larval plants. Wish I had seen more caterpillars but maybe next year. It definitely is a great reference for butterflies in our area!

  5. This sounds like a great book. I have always wanted a more comprehensive resource that shows at least the caterpillar for each butterfly. I just wish it covered more than 23, which is not very many of the dozens out there. It was a great summer for butterflies, which was a bright spot in what can seem like a degenerating world environment.

    1. For the type of book and the way it is laid out I can see why the authors only covered 23. I just found out from the author that they raised each of these 23 to get the detailed pictures and info. Hopefully they will do another book. I found it a great beginning resource. Here it was not as great as I had hoped with our drought but there were a few bright moments.

    1. That is great news. With the cold spring and the drought, we did not experience more but less at least with monarchs. More swallowtails though as I deliberately left dill and parsley for them. So I was happy about that.

  6. Thank you for such a WONDERFUL review! My brother and I wrote this book because we couldn’t find any other book that included every stage of each butterfly life cycle, and we hoped others would find it useful. It took us 5 years to raise these species by hand and photograph their various stages of development. We are so happy you like it !

    1. Judy I did not realize you hand raised these butterflies. I am grateful for all your hard work as you said there was not this detailed of a resource. Now I can continue my wildlife gardening in earnest and welcome more butterflies. It was my pleasure to review and highly recommend your book!

  7. This book is definitely going on my must-have list. I love seeing the butterflies in my garden, but have yet to start planting host plants for them, and that is my next step. This book sounds like just the book I need! Thanks so much for the review, and for joining in.

    1. Holley this is the perfect book then for finding the right host plants and starting to attract the butterflies to lay eggs. Of course those caterpillars will eat the host plant which can be a bit disconcerting at first. But I plant extra just in case and protect it. Like parsley. I plant some for butterflies and some for me that is netted. Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures.

  8. I am like you too, been fascinated with butterflies my whole life. But we have different species and I love yours too. Even the larvae are beautiful, even if I can’t touch them with my bare hands. I shriek whenever I inadvertently touch them or when the pupa wiggles, haha! Now you are reminding me to go home and watch butterflies, i have not done that in a few weeks now!

    1. It is good for our souls to watch these beautiful creatures Andrea…hope you have fun watching yours…the pictures you post of them are gorgeous.

  9. Hardly ever see butterflies, and they are only the small white ones – still waiting for my transformation …

    Of all your book reviews, this one has whet my appetite the most.

    1. Wonderful to hear you liked this review. My transformation is still going on but I see mini cycles every now and then. Hoping for a bit more respite during this one.

    1. Glad you liked it and thanks for linking me into your meme…what a nice surprise as I went to link in and saw my blog there 🙂

  10. hi donna, this is a rave review, looks very impressive. I really want to learn more about butterflies. Enough ooh-ing and aah-ing, it’s time for a bit of knowledge , and thank you for providing the route. Although maybe I should look for an Australian resource because conditions and species are probably different?

    1. I would do that Catmint and find a good resource for Australia…you will not be sorry. One of the best things I have done is to garden for the butterflies.

  11. Thanks for sharing your review. It sounds like a great butterfly book. I have become more interested in iding butterflies while I am out looking for birds. Great post and photos. Have a wonderful day!

    1. This book has helped me ID more butterflies too as there are a few that are so close in coloring etc. So happy you enjoyed the post!

  12. Hello, Donna, I did a bit of research last year as I had quite a few black swallowtail cats and monarch cats. An interesting fact about the monarchs:there are 4 generations of Monarchs born each season. It all begins in March/April when the first generation is born and goes through the 4 stages of the life cycle: egg, caterpillar (larva), chyrsalis (pupa), adult butterfly. In May/June the cycle repeats for the 2nd generation. July/August is when the 3rd generation is born. In September/October the 4th generation is born – egg, caterpillar, chyrsalis, adult butterfly…but THIS generation does not die. It migrates and lives for 6-8 months in Mexico or Southern California. The Monarchs begin awakening and mating in February/March of the next spring and then lay their eggs. After living for much longer than the other 3 generations, with their purpose met, they finally die. I also read that with the black swallowtails, some of their chrysalises which are formed later in the year actually winter over, rather than hatching. Butterflies are amazing creatures, and God has made them with these adaptive capabilities to ensure continued generations of butterflies.

    1. Fascinating Beth. I know the monarchs that visit us lay eggs and then there is another laying when those new butterflies reach adulthood. I usually find the last generation lay eggs in my garden before they head south. This year the eggs never hatched with drought. So we never did see many hatched butterflies from either generation what with a very cold spring and then a drought. Hard for them, but the black swallowtails had several generations. You just never know.

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