Enjoy Beauty of Butterflies

Bryan Reynolds developed a passion for nature while on his family’s farm in northwestern Wisconsin.

In the summertime, butterfly feeders outside the kitchen window are kept full of Gatorade and ripe fruit, bringing butterflies within camera range.

When he retired from the Air Force, he pursued a career in nature and wildlife photography.

Many of his 20,000 images have been published in books, post cards, calendars and magazines such as Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer, Mother Earth News, Discover, Highlights for Children, and with the National Geographic Society. View his photographs at www.bryanreynoldsphoto.com.

Reynolds is also the founder, president and executive director of a non-profit, The Butterflies of the World Foundation (www.botwf.org), whose mission is to improve public awareness of the conservation of butterflies and butterfly habitat and enhance public enjoyment of butterflies through educational programs and photography presentations.

The presentation that Reynolds will deliver at the annual meeting of Friends of Honor Heights Park Association on Feb. 5 is titled “Butterflies . . . Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?”

For an in depth study of butterflies there is a new book by Philip Howse, called “Butterflies: Decoding their Signs and Symbols.” Howse also became interested in butterflies in childhood when his mother pointed them out to him. He grew up observing insects, then as an adult became a professor and author in the field.

Without being professorial or writing over our non-scientific heads, Howse weaves a captivating story of symbolism in ancient and modern history, nature, and art and how they are all tied to the patterning and coloration of butterflies and other insects.

There are dozens of beautiful photographs in the book. Some are two-page displays of a single butterfly and others illustrate iconic symbols such as skulls, snakes and birds. It is the kind of book you want to read slowly for understanding.

With that said, here are some of the fascinating butterfly and moth facts Howse included:

The artist Laurence Whistler included a peacock butterfly in an etched window in Dorset where Lawrence of Arabia is buried.

For thousands of years, bees and butterflies have been symbols of transformation between life and death and rebirth as the agents of pollination and seed formation as well as the creation of honey.

In the Middle Ages, the red admiral butterfly was associated with death because of the blood-red bands on its black wings.

Two years before his death, in 1670, the Roman architect, Gisleni, constructed his own marble epitaph which included a moth caterpillar spinning a chrysalis.

The yellow and black stripes of the common swallowtail butterfly mimic the spines of dangerous plants, helping keep predators at a distance.

Many butterflies look like leaves, tree bark, bird droppings, and grass stems. The banded peacock swallowtail has green stripes on a black background, providing camouflage when it is resting on green leaves.

The spots on the wings of fritillary butterflies look like the breast feather markings on some predator birds.

The folded tails of black swallowtail wings falsely look like a head and when the butterfly is upside down, it looks like a rodent, discouraging predators.

Eye spots on butterfly wings are designed to fool. The Precis opens and closes its wings repeatedly while eating so it appears to be opening and closing its eyes.

“Butterflies: Decoding their Signs & Symbols” by Philip Howse is much more than a book of butterfly facts. It is an engaging read for anyone fascinated by anthropology and the study of insects.

With hundreds of color photographs, in a 9-by-12-inch, 190-page, hardback, it also qualifies as a coffee table book. Cost: $40 from Firefly Books; $22 online.

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