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Butterflies in Italy

by Paul Cormacain

IT is said that the butterflies in Italy are thriving. Can you think of a better reason for going to Italia than to check out the veracity of this assertion? So here we are in Italy, not interested in the food, the drink, the people, the weather, our daughter living here, only interested in butterflies!

So we took with us a new publication, the Photographic Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe. It is so easy to be insular, and forget that in other countries other magnificent types of wildlife, rare or absent here, may be quite common. This book helped to open our eyes to the magnificence of Lepidoptera in Italia.

We did come across some beautiful day-flying moths, with black-blue bodies longer than their wings. The wings were black with white spots, and there was a most distinctive orange band marching, sorry, a static band, around their middles. Unfortunately, the Guide to the Butterflies did not reveal too much about day-flying moths, and we have yet to identify this colourful insect.

The new book is a new concept field guide. Naturally, it is trying to promote a greater interest in butterflies, and is intended as an aid to identification when we are abroad on business or on holidays. It encourages us to be interested in conserving butterflies and butterfly habitat, and is meant to enable us to identify butterflies on the wing, so to speak.

The only problem I found with this book was that while it did show lovely photographs, the butterfly measurements were absent. Then I came across some small blues, and was able to recognise them from home. So knowing the small blue did not hinder me from using the book, nor did it help me.

What it did was make me appreciate the writer, Tom Tolman's, approach to butterfly identification in this book. He believes that the impression of size is judged by wing area. If he were to add information about wing length, it just might seem somewhat confusing It helps to have an idea of size, as in my case with the small blue, but he feels that very little experience is required to gauge, at a glance, the relative sizes of different species.

So taking this on board, I used this book again using his ideas. Coming across Duke of Burgundy Fritillarys, I felt that recognition was due to my familiarity with this insecti s appearance in all British butterfly books.

The Burgundy appears in south Scotland, south England, then in Europe from north of the Iberian Peninsula eastwards. The Italian burgundy was the first one ever seen by ourselves, and this afforded us pleasure, and the book enhanced the pleasure.

So having the book encouraged us to look further afield for butterflies. We then came across speckled wood, and felt quite at home. We did check that the Italian version was the same as ours, and then felt that we were sitting in our back garden at home with the speckled wood investigating the hedges. Only one thing, it was somewhat warmer in Italia.

Ulster Star