The Language of Butterflies

The Language of Butterflies

How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World's Favorite Insect

Wendy Williams


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An enthralling look at one of the world’s most beautiful and resilient animals, and the role they play in our ecosystem

Butterflies are beloved across the globe, adorning gardens, parks and zoos. Their feats are staggering – monarchs migrate thousands of kilometres each year. They are smarter than we think – some species have learned to fool ants into taking care of them. Their beauty has led many to obsession – lepidopterists (butterfly-seekers) have died in search of particular species, frenzied and driven mad in the pursuit of colour.

What draws us to these creatures so intensely? Why do they live so briefly? How do they get their colours? Science journalist Wendy Williams investigates butterflies across the globe, their habitats and those dedicated to studying them. She examines the ancient partnership between butterflies and humans, and the ways we depend on them today – from a bellwether on climate change to a source of life-saving medical technology.

For lovers of Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus and Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, this melodious book reveals the inner lives of these special creatures and shows why they continue to fascinate us. Touching, eye-opening and profound, it is a love letter to these vanishing species, and a celebration of the beauty and joy they bring to our world.

‘Enchanting … introduces us to an array of fascinating people who help tease out delightful insights into lepidopteran biology and evolution. This is a wonderful read.’ —David Suzuki

‘There’s much to relish in this flashy tale.’ —Fiona Capp, The Sydney Morning Herald

‘Nature-loving readers will surely share the joy Williams takes in her subject in this admiring tribute to the butterfly.’ —Publisher's Weekly


Wendy Williams:
Wendy Williams is a science journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion. Through her long career she has traversed many African countries, walked the fields and forests of Europe, and explored North American mountains and prairies. She lives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.