Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage

Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage
Author: 
Robert Michael Pyle
Publisher: 
Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: 
1999
ISBN: 
ISBN 0-395-82820-1

cloth, 307 p., $24

For anyone interested in butterflies, this book is a must! It is a great adventure yarn as well as a wonderful travel book for environmentalists, as the ecologist-author pursues his elusive quarry for almost two months all over the Far West. His descriptions of the country are almost lyrical, with interesting digressions on subjects as diverse as microbrewing, fishing, swimming holes, filmmaking, radio talk shows, nature preserves, trash dumps, lunchrooms and colorful characters met along the way. Of course, there's lots of information about butterflies. Skippers, coppers, swallowtails, fritillaries, painted ladies, viceroys, satyrs and most importantly, monarchs. We learn, among other things, that the male monarch is larger and paler than the female; that their orange color signals danger to predators (a result of a toxin in milkweed); that they have flyways like birds, usually along watercourses; and that some Eastern monarchs, contrary to accepted belief, cross the Western mountains and winter with their Western cousins. As the author freely admits, this is not a scholarly work. There is nothing technical about this book, not even taxonomic Greek and Latin. Nor with 300-plus pages, and nary a pretty color plate, is this a quick read. Pyle, however, is a great storyteller as well as a nature lover. I found this book difficult to put down. Any man who can spend two months and nine thousand miles chasing butterflies has got to be reckoned with.

— Jim Kemper

Volume: 
1
Number: 
4