Guide to Victorian butterflies

by Simon
Publish date
10 September 2013
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Dr Ross Field, a former head of Sciences at Museum Victoria, has compiled a spectacular book on one of his passions: butterflies of Victoria. Butterflies: Identification and life history is the result of many years of painstaking work on Ross’s part and covers all aspects of the lifecycle of these eternally popular insects.

Egg Tailed Emperor Butterfly Lateral view of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly egg
Image: Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria

Incredible images take readers through the lifecycle of each species from egg, through caterpillar and the food plant it eats, pupa and finally adult. The magnified images of the eggs are stunning and allow us to view and admire objects usually too small to notice. The eggs can be ornamented, ribbed, round or cigar shaped and come in a range of colours. Depending on the viewer some people see a range of jellies or blancmanges when they look at some of these images, (or maybe that’s just me). In fact a selection of these egg shots is touring selected Victorian cultural venues as part of The Art of Science exhibition.

  Caterpillar larva Tailed Emperor Caterpillar of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria

Collecting the eggs of numerous species for photographing was a big undertaking; Ross has spent many hours in a host of locations watching butterflies circle until they land to lay their eggs. A sample of the eggs were collected and brought back to Melbourne Museum to be photographed using our camera/microscope set up. Prior to this book, anyone other than an expert who collected an egg would have to wait until the egg hatched and the caterpillar had reached one of its later instars before being able to hazard a guess at the species. With this new guide, the ability for the general public to undertake identifications in the field is greatly expanded.    

Pupa Tailed Emperor Pupa of the Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria

The egg images might also raise questions such as why do butterflies from the Pieridae family tend to lay cigar shaped eggs? Why do the eggs of some species have a series of lateral ribs running around the surface? Is there an evolutionary advantage to laying sculptured eggs? In short, this comprehensive field guide gives a new vision into the fascinating world of Victorian butterflies and helps to educate and provoke our interest into further research and conservation. 

Adult Tailed Emperor butterfly Adult Tailed Emperor Butterfly
Image: Ross Field
Source: Museum Victoria


Butterflies: Identification and life history. A Museum Victoria field guide by Ross Field. Available in paperback from MV shops or as an eBook from  iTunes or Booktopia.

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.