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“Butterflies of Alabama” nature guide will launch in Aug.

Mallieve Breeding, left, and her daughter, Nancy Smith, talk about the new butterfly book Selma helped support.--Laura Fenton photo

SELMA — Black and white images of butterflies can’t display the oranges of monarchs, greens of caterpillars or browns of a striped hairstreak. As the Butterfly Capital of the state, Selma residents weren’t going to allow the “Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into Their Lives” nature guide to display anything less than the full spectrum of a butterfly’s beauty.

The University of Alabama Press wanted to print the guide in full color but did not have enough finances to do so.

Elizabeth Motherwell, natural history editor and development officer for UA Press, asked Selma to become a benefactor of the project after she visited the Queen City for a book signing at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library about two years ago.

“I saw the butterfly sculptures on the corners,” Motherwell said. “And I thought maybe Selma is the right place to ask for funding.”

To print the book in full color, Motherwell needed $10,000, but The University of Alabama Press had only $6,000 to contribute to the project. 
She knew the state did not have a butterfly book and thought it would be a great publication and investment  for the area.

Selma residents agreed.

“It was immediately apparent to everybody who heard about it that it would be such good publicity to Selma,” said Carol Sommers, project volunteer and donor.

Sommers headed the collection efforts with Elizabeth Buchanan to raise $7,000 for the publication. After two months, volunteers had $7,600 in donations from 75 people.

To thank Selma for contributing financially to the project, the copyright page states “Publication supported in part by the city of Selma, Alabama’s Butterfly Capital.”

“I think it’s such a plus that Selma’s involved in it,” said Mallieve Breeding, known as Madame Butterfly for her knowledge of the species. “It will make wonderful, ongoing publicity for Selma because as long as the book is around, that will be the case.”

The guide will serve as a butterfly  resource for everyone from children to amateur watchers.

“This will go in people’s backpacks for when they are doing nature walks,” said Nancy Smith, project volunteer. “It’s not just for scientists, it’s for everybody. This will be on people’s tables when they’re outside in the yard and they are looking at the butterflies, this will be in schools, this will be everywhere. Not only is it comprehensive; it is beautiful. The photography is just stunning.”

The 486-page book will catalog the life cycles of the 84 known species of Alabama’s butterflies.

Authors Sara Bright and Paulette Haywood Ogard spent 14 years studying the life cycles of butterflies, photographing more than 400 images for the guide.

The set publication date for the book is Aug. 13.

The Selma-Dallas County Public Library will celebrate the launch of the book at a “Lunch at the Library” event on Oct. 7 at noon, followed by a lecture at 12:30 p.m. and a book signing.

Guides will be available for purchase before and after the event for $30 each.

Selma became the Butterfly Capital of Alabama in 1982 as a conservation effort and to increase education about butterflies.