The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists

The Dangerous World of Butterflies: The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists

by Peter Laufer
     
 

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This widely praised book chronicles Peter Laufer’s adventures within the butterfly industry and the butterfly underground. Laufer begins by examining the allure of butterflies throughout history, but his research soon veers into the high-stake realms of organized crime, ecological devastation, museum collections, and chaos theory. His ever-expanding journey

Overview

This widely praised book chronicles Peter Laufer’s adventures within the butterfly industry and the butterfly underground. Laufer begins by examining the allure of butterflies throughout history, but his research soon veers into the high-stake realms of organized crime, ecological devastation, museum collections, and chaos theory. His ever-expanding journey of discovery throughout the Americas and beyond offers a rare look into a theater of intrigue, peopled with quirky and nefarious characters—all in pursuit of these delicate, beautiful creatures. Read this book, and your garden—and the world—will never quite look the same.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this absorbing and far-reaching chronicle, Laufer applies his insatiable journalistic appetite to exploring the crossroads where humans and butterflies meet." —NPR Science Desk “[A] compelling, all-angles examination. . . . Laufer delivers an absorbing science lesson for fans of the colorful bugs.” —Publishers Weekly "Recommended for scientists and lay readers who enjoyed Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief." —Library Journal "Like The Orchid Thief, The Dangerous World of Butterflies takes us deep into the dark heart of obsessed collectors and the passionate activism of people working to repopulate species like the Palos Verdes blue. Worlds within worlds: Laufer, a veteran reporter on cultural and political borders, understands how these worlds cross and collide. His book is a Venn diagram of the beautiful and bizarre." —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times "[Laufer's] book is charming and his attention to detail, combined with a real gift for describing these fascinating characters — like calling entomologist Arthur Shapiro "an endless litany of intriguing butterfly stories" — made me want to read everything else he has written." —Andrew Ervin, Washington Post "...Laufer's The Dangerous World of Butterflies packs real entertainment wallop in a book filled with informed tidbits custom-designed for cocktail hour." —P. Joseph Potocki, The Bohemian "A charming . . . meditation on butterflies and the people who love them." —Kirkus "The Dangerous World of Butterflies: the Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists by Peter Laufer is an eye-opening peek into the world of butterfly collecting. From true crime to heated debates between butterfly conservationists and butterfly farmers, this book reads like a novel." —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Like The Orchid Thief, a book that exposed many unexpected aspects connected to another of nature's beautiful gifts, The Dangerous World of Butterflies is an entertaining, enlightening read." —Seattle Times "Laufer weaves his tale with a genial flair. . . . The journey with Laufer is one well worth taking." —Audubon "From the natural history and ecology of the butterfly to the very real threat of butterfly extinction, the world of museum collections, and more, this social, political and natural history is a key acquisition for both general lending libraries and those interested in science issues." —Midwest Book Review
Andrew Ervin
[Laufer's] book is charming and his attention to detail, combined with a real gift for describing these fascinating characters…made me want to read everything else he has written. And I'm certain to look differently at the butterflies in my own backyard, knowing now how far they may have traveled to get there.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Turning from the Iraq War, author and journalist Laufer (Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq) decided to focus on the presumably innocuous business of butterflies. There, he found yet more violence, corruption and unanswered questions, resulting in another compelling all-angles examination. Fluttering across the globe for at least 40 million years, Lepidoptera face increasing threats in modern times, largely from habitat loss and pesticides. Amateur and professional butterfly experts weigh in on everything from art to conservation, breeding and butterfly sex to development and wing colors, as well as the meaning of their fascination for humans. Lepidopterology contains a surprising stack of unsolved mysteries, including the process of metamorphosis: what goes on in the chrysalis, in which every cell of the caterpillar's body liquefies before reconstituting into a butterfly, might as well be magic. Laufer also finds controversy in commercial breeding and discovers "worldwide criminal operations" in butterfly poaching and smuggling (in which driving species to near extinction is a standard practice for pushing up specimen prices). In casual prose, Laufer delivers an absorbing science lesson for fans of the colorful bugs.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A charming but slightly scattershot meditation on butterflies and the people who love them. Radio journalist Laufer (Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, 2008, etc.), who usually covers grimmer topics like the Iraq war and the immigration debate, turned to this subject on a lark. Asked on a nationally televised reading what he would write about next, he joked that his next book would be about "butterflies and flowers." Jane Foulds, the owner of a butterfly reserve in Nicaragua, took him seriously and invited him to begin his research with the creatures she and her husband collected and bred for export in the Central American rainforest. After immersing himself in butterfly lore and visiting Foulds' reserva, he began to fall in love with the delicate-looking insects. Being a journalist, however, he naturally found his to controversy between breeders like the Fouldses, who sell butterflies in bulk to celebrants who release them for effect at weddings or funerals, and "purists" like academic Jeffrey Glassberg, who argues that butterflies should be left alone to delight us in their natural habitats. Laufer investigated the economic war between commercial loggers and naturalists in Mexico's Sierra Nevada, where the monarchs' breeding ground is imperiled. He also came across smugglers of endangered species and the agents on their trail, artists who use butterfly scales like paint on their canvases and lepidopterophobes who break into a sweat at the sight of a buckeye or swallowtail. Upon meeting the eccentric creationist who owns Florida's Butterfly World, Laufer proselytized about metamorphosis and intelligent design. Disappointingly, he was too charmed by the magic to get aDarwinian perspective. Given his otherwise omnivorous approach to the material and his claim to be on the evolution side of the debate, it's one important leaf Laufer left unturned. A flawed but pleasing survey of nature's most beautiful insects.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781599219271
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
05/04/2010
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
743,845
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Laufer PhD is the author of more than a dozen books, including Forbidden Creatures (Lyons Press, forthcoming) and Wetback Nation: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border. He is the James Wallace Chair in Journalism at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. More about his work, which has received the George Polk, Edward R. Murrow, and other awards, at peterlaufer.com.

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