Butterflies are embedded in our culture, symbols of beauty and peace and childhood and transformation or metamorphosis. Pretty butterflies cover all kinds of home decor, bed and bath linens and even dishes; they adorn the hair of little girls, flutter all over the fashions of females of all ages, and fill page after page of books.

Butterflies are the jewels of the garden, and countless books aim to teach us about the habits of butterflies so we can lure them with flowers, design gardens to please and attract them, with more books to help us identify these visitors with stained-glass wings.


But not everyone loves butterflies: Nicole Kidman famously expressed a fear of butterflies. While there isn’t a specific phobia name for this, a quick Google search comes up with the (unsubstantiated) information that this fear is related to Mottephobia (fear of moths) and Lepidopterophobia (a fear of the order of insects butterflies belong to). I feel bad for people with this phobia, because butterflies are everywhere.


There is a butterfly—or is it a moth?—on the cover of The Silence of the lambs, and butterflies are a recurring theme in mysteries and thrillers. Popular in book titles, the butterfly is usually a metaphor of one kind or another, as in Black Butterfly, Stone Butterfly, White Butterfly, Obsidian Butterfly, Paper Butterfly, and The Roar of the Butterflies.

Julia Alvarez modern classic, In the Time of the Butterflies has a politically charged take on the butterfly theme, while Diane Noble’s The Butterfly Farm features death by poisonous butterflies. Margaret Erhart’s The Butterflies of Grand Canyon features a lepidopterist and actual, rather than metaphorical, butterflies.


A book that took me by surprise was written by Peter Laufer, Ph.D., an award-winning author whose research has taken him to Iraq, to prisons in third world countries and countless other places that left him fatigued and depressed. He vowed his next book would be about butterflies and flowers—an ode to peace, he assumed. It turned out to something much more complex. Subtitled “The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors and Conservationists,” The Dangerous World of Butterflies is a fascinating investigation into butterfly smugglers, as well as the plight of the Monarch butterfly, and attempts by naturalists to breed endangered species and re-introduce them into the wild. Read Laufer’s book and you’ll never look at these winged wonders the same way again.

Are you a butterfly enthusiast? Or would you rather butterflies hang out in

someone else's yard?




Becke Davis is the senior writer for The Landscape Contractor magazine, a member of Garden Writers of America and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written well over 1,000 published articles and is the author of five garden-related books in addition to being the moderator of B&N's Mystery book club.

by GothicroseAP on ‎04-15-2010 12:24 PM

What a fascinating article.

I have always loved butterflies and love seeing them in my garden. But I never thought about a sinister side to people's attraction to the butterfly motif until I did see the novel and movie, "Silence of the Lambs."

I think the book you talked about, "The Dangerous World of Butterflies" shows what a gifted author can do with a complex and yet interesting topic.

Thanks for sharing this.


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎04-15-2010 04:16 PM

I first picked up the book out of curiosity, but it hooked me really quickly. The author is a good writer and has a fascinating background. I highly recommend it!

by on ‎04-16-2010 03:06 AM

Personally I like butterflies. But are all butterflies considered moths? Cause that's a deaths head moth on the cover of Silence the lambs.


Well they do have different connotations.

Black swallowtails are Japanese psycopomps.


And quite a few authors picture the nectar drinkers as predatory blood drinkers.


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎04-16-2010 10:55 AM

Good catch, Tigger - my brother pointed that out, too. That's what happens when I look at small images without a magnifying glass. I put "or is it a moth?" because I wasn't sure, but I've since found out that you are exactly right - it's a death's head moth.


Some moths are really beautiful -- the luna moth, for instance. 


There's a lot of information here:http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/

by GothicroseAP on ‎04-16-2010 12:48 PM

Dear Becke:


I find this topic of continuing interest.


Actually, a moth of this variety (the Silence of the Lamb) moth, is of the family tree of the Monarch butterfly. I studied weird things in college. Thought I would help you out with the trivia. The Silence of The Lamb moth was actually noted in the film as a very rare species, very difficult to keep and raise in captivity, especially in America. The Monarch butterfly when it was introduced in the Americas by the early botanists was often mistaken in these hand drawn  journals for these large moth varieties since they had such similarities.  

Thank you for providing this delightful discussion.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎04-16-2010 12:52 PM

Thank you so much for this information! 

by Joan_P on ‎05-17-2010 10:49 PM

Well, I'm late to the discussion but wanted to add that my class just watched caterpillars turn into butterflies... a true wonder!

Happy Spring!

by on ‎05-17-2010 11:21 PM

Yeah that was always a good year in science class.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-17-2010 11:50 PM

What a cool class project!

by Joan_P on ‎05-24-2010 10:03 PM

Thanks :smileyhappy:  We're getting Ladybugs to "raise" next!

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-24-2010 11:05 PM

We were inundated by those orange ladybugs a few years ago - they got in the house and were EVERYWHERE. Ugh!

by on ‎05-24-2010 11:27 PM

Be grateful, buggers probaly cleaned your yard of vermin bugs good. I buy them for a yearly aphid and nasty biters tobacco bugs begone.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎05-25-2010 12:31 PM

Good point!

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