"Butterflies fluttered into my life when I was a very young child," writes Simone Hébert Allard in the preface of her recently released slick, soft-covered book, Manitoba Butterflies: A Field Guide.
"Over the years, I have had many encounters with butterflies at various places, be it in a plant nursery, next to a roadside vegetable stand or at a state-of-the-art butterfly conservatory in Stockholm. Always, I am drawn to them and them to me."
With over 11,000 photographs and illustrations, 101 of Manitoba’s most common butterfly species are presented in splendid full-colour in the book.
"I’m excited by her book," says lepidopterist/evolutionary biologist Jeffery Marcus, an associate professor of biology at the University of Manitoba, says in a telephone interview.
He notes that the publisher asked him to check the manuscript to make sure the book was technically accurate.
"Simone has created a field guide to native butterflies that will be of interest to scientists, while still being accessible to amateur enthusiasts of all levels of experience," Marcus adds.
Hébert Allard says that each species is photographed in its natural environment and, for the first time, each stage of the butterfly life cycle is presented in a photographic progression that culminates in a life size image of the mature adult butterfly.
She also mentions that the book, published in June by Turnstone Press, has 82 photographic contributors, including 11 of her own photos.
"I found them all over the world, with 45 of the photographers from the U.S.," says Hébert Allard, who has previously published five nature-related children’s books in French and directed a television documentary on Canada’s lake monsters, during an interview at her North End home.
"What I needed to find were people who reared butterflies because I was illustrating the full life cycle —egg, larvae, pupa, adult butterfly. That’s the first time this was done in a Canadian field guide."
Apart from all the details you’d expect from a top-quality field guide, Manitoba Butterflies also offers up a wealth of anecdotal facts and trivia, including a butterfly inspired myth or legend, which will fascinate novices and experts alike.
For example, according to legend, the Aztec believed monarch butterflies to be the incarnation of their fallen warriors, wearing the colours of battle.
"In Mexico, the butterfly was also seen as a symbol representing both the fire and rain gods. The monarch is Manitoba’s largest butterfly. It is the only milkweed butterfly found in Canada and the only monarch of North America to undertake such a long migration."
Hébert Allard adds: "In my book, you’ve also got customized maps that show where each species is found — the hot spots — in Manitoba."