Resources – Butterflies

Below are some of our favorite butterfly field guides and online resources related to gardening for butterflies:

Books on Butterflies

[Click titles or covers to jump to]

Intro to Southern California ButterfliesAn Introduction to Southern California Butterflies

by Fred Heath

The most comprehensive book for Southern Californian butterfly lovers. Fred Heath is a local expert who regularly speaks on the subject; his text includes useful tips such as the host plants for each butterfly, its habits, and where you are most likely to find it. Combined with numerous photographs by Herb Clarke, it is an invaluable reference for locals getting serious about butterflies.

Butterflies of Anza-BorregoButterflies & Their Favorite Flowering Plants: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park & Environs

by Lynn & Gene Monroe

Anza-Borrego is known as a Mecca for butterfly watchers in the spring, and the Monroes know it well. Although aimed more for the San Diego region than Los Angeles, the overlap is considerable. This book is a model for how all butterfly books should be created, as it includes a detailed listing of host food plants for all listed butterflies, and photographs of most of their caterpillars.

Common Butterflies of CaliforniaCommon Butterflies of California

by Bob Stewart

When trying to identify a new butterfly in our garden, this is often the first book we reach for. Although not the most comprehensive one out there, it is very easy to use with its lay-flat spiral bound design that features text on the left and a full-page photograph on the right. It was also one of the first books to consistently list host plants and include pictures of the caterpillars of some of the butterflies. Out of print and selling for a premium on Amazon; you may be able to find copies in some public park, plant nursery, and other similarly-inclined bookstores.

Butterfly GardeningButterfly Gardening: Creating Summer Magic in Your Garden

by The Xerces Society and The Smithsonian Institute

This beautiful, concise book features chapters by a variety of authors that cover a wide range of subjects, including designing a butterfly garden (including several proposed garden plans and plant lists), their life cycle, their habits, photographing butterflies, and more. An excellent introductory book for anyone in the US (not just Southern California).

Butterflies Thru BinocularsButterflies through Binoculars: The West

by Jeffery Glassberg

Many consider this comprehensive yet affordable field guide to be the bible for identifying butterflies in the Western United States. This book includes numerous photographs (often of the male and female a specific butterfly, or of the top view and underwings), as well as range maps. Glassberg is the president of the North American Butterfly Association and editor of American Butterflies. There is an Eastern version as well.

Field Guide to CaterpillarsCaterpillars in the Field and Garden

by Thomas J. Allen, Jim P. Brock, & Jeffery Glassberg

At last! A book dedicated to identifying butterfly caterpillars, so you can figure out what that unusual thing crawling on your host plants is going to grow up to be. (Mind you, the plant itself is a good place to start when trying to identify unknown larva, since only certain caterpillars eat certain plants.) This book is written for all of North America, including range maps for each butterfly discussed, and does not include moth caterpillars. An essential companion for the serious butterfly fanatic.

My Monarch JournalMy Monarch Journal

If you’re raising monarchs and would like to keep a journal with a young student, we highly recommend the book My Monarch Journal, available in both Parent-Teacher and Student editions from Dawn Publications.

It features more than 140 photographs taken with a microscopic lens of the life cycle of the monarch from egg to adult, with plenty of room for students to take notes. Be sure to order at least one copy of the Parent-Teacher edition as it includes everything in the Student edition as well as the all-important answers to all the questions posed!

Family Butterfly BookThe Family Butterfly Book

by Rick Mikula

This book has lots of ideas for projects for raising caterpillars and creating butterfly habitats. Colorful and fun and not just for kids!

Other Books

Check out this list of butterfly reference guides and gardening books at

as well as the Books & Links page at the LA-NABA site.

Butterflies Online

Monarch Watch for all things monarch! To download a PDF called Where to see the Monarchs in CA, go to Monarch Watch's Resource page, or click here to download it directly.

Doug Aguillard's web site – The Birds, Butterflies, and Dragonflies of San Diego – includes a selection of great photos.

Fun Children’s Butterfly Site has tips for adults too! See

Rearing Caterpillars

If you’d like to buy a butterfly rearing cage, check out the products at Educational Science. They also sell milkweed plants and seed (avoid the milkweed “artificial diet”, none of our caterpillars would go near the stuff!)

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