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

3.41  ·  Rating Details  ·  395 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
A true tale of beauty and obsession, smugglers and scientists, and nature’s most enigmatic creature.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Lyons Press (first published April 1st 2006)
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Jan 05, 2014 Julie rated it liked it
Recommended to Julie by: NPR
I was moved to purchase this book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR. Also because of my own experience years ago when in Las Vegas. I remember passing by a kiosk with butterflies framed and under glass. Everyone else was remarking on how beautiful they were. All I could see was how TRAGIC it was.

Why do we need to possess something to appreciate it? Why do we find BEAUTY in the shell of a creature and not something deeper? Those butterflies were free and beautiful at one time. I imagine
Feb 26, 2014 Nikki rated it liked it
2.5 stars

The Dangerous World of Butterflies has an attractive and intriguing concept. The actual book is interesting but lacked a more significant depth to bolster its title.

Overall I would have liked more science, as usual, but it was clear that science was not the author's forte, he barely understood butterflies. (I didn't mind the author overall, his comments felt genuine and I especially liked how he included his opposition to zoos.) A simple way to up the knowledge transferred from author
Jul 26, 2009 Shelly rated it really liked it
You're thinking, "Butterflies? Really?" I was right there with you when I first heard Peter Laufer talking about his book on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But I was intrigued, and when a friend gifted me a copy of the book, I couldn't wait to get into it. I'm glad I didn't put it off because Dangerous describes this world to a tee. Right from the start you're immersed in the world of butterflies - not stuff of cliche, but truly fascinating facts drawn from this very bizarre world. You'll lear ...more
H R Koelling
May 14, 2013 H R Koelling rated it it was ok
The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking that the author was looking for a story that wasn't there. He didn't necessarily invent anything to write this book, but I think his own ignorance and his entitled sense of poetic license meshed to create a sense of suspense and danger where it really doesn't exist. Are there butterfly poachers out there? Are there lunatics and right-wing conservatives running butterfly farms who earn their profits from killing butterflies for a living? Sure ...more
Amanda Lerch
Feb 22, 2012 Amanda Lerch rated it liked it
The subject matter was fascinating but the writing was lacking. I found Laufer's attempts at wit to be mildly annoying, and his writing to have a condescending undertone that I didn't care for. The chapters did not flow as a cohesive body of work should. The chapter on the world's most notorious butterfly smuggler was exciting and I found the chapter on Monarch migration to be particularly interesting. The book really could have used some photos. These creatures are insanely beautiful and the am ...more
Jun 18, 2009 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
This is an enjoyable book to either read in one sitting or poke through. Peter Laufer's writing style is very engaging. He tells fascinating stories on butterfly topics ranging from tourism to scholarship to poaching. Most of the chapters are quite interesting stand alone stories, but book has a narrative thread that makes it much more than a collection of articles.
Sep 09, 2015 Christopher rated it liked it
More about the people who are deeply involved with butterflies than on butterflies. Still, there is interesting information on both, but if you already have a general knowledge of butterflies and are looking for something more in depth on butterflies this book might be disappointing... The Dangerous World of Butterflies is more like The Mushroom Hunters than A Sting in the Tale. At times, while reading the work, the story as a whole felt more like a collection of anecdotes linked by the similar ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Christine rated it it was ok
I can't say that this book was amazing, but it was an interesting look into a world I (and probably most) never knew existed. Most people love butterflies, but who ever thought to look into it deeper than that? Before this book, I had never known about butterfly smugglers, the practice of "farming" them, or even people with butterfly phobias.

That said, this book starts off with the author introducing himself, and speaking about his previous books about wars and other human issues. He knows very
Jun 14, 2010 Melinda rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This is an interesting, if somewhat disorganized book about butterflies: their habits, their lifestyles, their eminent extinction by poachers and collectors, their resilience and the people who are fascinated by them and devote their lives to either studying them, catching them, raising them or killing them to use in their art. The book would have been MUCH better if it would have had a few key pictures in it, but I guess that's what the internet is for. It made for an average book club discussi ...more
Nov 01, 2009 Jessica rated it it was ok
This was okay. Little to no mention of the butterfly farms. What "bugged" me (get it?) was the author. He was very smug and condescending for most of the book, especially for someone who didn't know that painted ladies fly farther every year than monarchs. Even someone as dumb as me knew that! <---- And that right there was the heart of the problem. He wrote the book like everyone who would ever read it would be completely stupid. It was not nearly as enjoyable as it should have been, because ...more
Aug 25, 2009 Mandy rated it it was amazing
That's right, I'm starting August off with a change-up. No strange monsters, or romantic stories, instead I was pulled into a world I didn't even know existed. No really. Did you know there is a black market for butterfly sales? Or that there are actually criminals in jail for catching butterflies? Mr. Lauffer took the assignment, learning about the butterflying world, to get away from his usual war correspondence. It's easy to catch glimpses of his war reporter style in this book, but it is now ...more
Aug 18, 2011 Ana rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Phew, finally finished reading this which apparently I first picked up back in 2010. Naughty, naughty reader.

Well, I think it just took a little while for me to get into it, but once i picked it up again a week ago, it was all smooth sailing.

If you like butterflies, you'll enjoy this book, if you love, well you'll love this :o)

Never realized how truly dangerous and exciting the world of butterfly conservation and research can be. Heck, i didn't even realize that there are people out there, right
Beth G.
After years of reporting on hot-button topics like immigration and Iraq, Laufer jokingly announced that his next book would be about "butterflies and flowers". Of course, the universe - here in the person of an American expat operating a Nicaraguan butterfly reserve - couldn't leave such a challenge alone. Thus, Laufer enters the realm of butterfly breeders, conservationists, and poachers. His explorations take him from Nicaragua and Mexico, as well as Florida and the California offices of the U ...more
Hazel Elizabeth
Jan 02, 2011 Hazel Elizabeth rated it did not like it
had been DYING to read this book because it had gotten some pretty good reviews finally read it, and well it was not all i expected it to be. the writing was fluid, the subject matter (the subculture of butterfly criminals, collectors, and conservationists) is riveting if you're into obscure subcultures (which i am), but somehow with all that, the book has no flair, no pizzaz, the author does not deliver. every paragraph, every chapter i was always waiting for something more.i don't like to call ...more
Nicole Bunge
Jan 09, 2012 Nicole Bunge is currently reading it
Shelves: non-fiction
Heard about this during an NPR (maybe WPR) interview with the author. I can already tell the first-person, meandering narrative is going to annoy me (The author says 'journalists are journalists till they die'- but this makes me want to *head-desk* because I have a degree in journalism, and they beat first-person narrative out of us in the first semester...) Plus, in the first chapter, there is already a lot of 'this can't be confirmed by a scientific expert but...'

... this is why I gave up on j
Aug 03, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable, informative book. The joy of summer reading!

It's not an all-time classic or investigative revelry or anything, but as an overview into the interesting world of butterflies (trade, collection, rehabilitation, etc.), Laufer provides those who know nothing (such as me and likely most other readers) with intriguing accounts of his two years following this odd, though engrossing, world. The characters are always exactly that, his commentary is often funny and insightful and the conten
Mar 02, 2012 Amanda rated it it was ok
I learned some interesting things about this book, but I found it kind of annoying how surprised the author seemed by what he was discovering. Um, no kidding, butterflies and butterfly images are everywhere. They're easily the most charismatic insects. A lot of his interactions with interviewees reminded me of the newspaper reporters who would come out in the field with me when I was doing my dragonfly research and ask questions like, "So... what do you see... when you look into the face of a dr ...more
Susan  Odetta
Nov 02, 2011 Susan Odetta rated it really liked it
I learned more about butterflies than I ever imagined. Who needs fiction! This is an intriguing story told with investigative journalistic zeal.

""Inside the hard chrysallis the transformation is in progress. All of their body parts, every cell, liquifies. All of their cells differentiate and begin forming the adult butterfly. It's basically this big butterfly soup inside. what exactly goes on in the soup to make the change remains an unknown to scientists."

"Butterflies populate mythology worldwi
Sandra Keyser
Nov 06, 2009 Sandra Keyser rated it really liked it
The book offers interesting anecdotes - the people who have interests in butterflies seem as diverse as the butterflies themselves. The author is fair and balanced, but it's clear that collectors have no qualms about decimating butterfly populations to complete their sets, the neighborhood affected by protection laws for the butterflies have no problems cutting down butterfly habitats, and breeders don't mind mass producing butterflies for releases at for example weddings. The conservationists t ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
For a journalist who knew next to nothing about butterflies, I commend the erudite research Mr. Laufer did. The travel, the e-mails, the interviews, the letters - anyone aspiring to do research on a subject brand new to you should follow his lead.

I re-read parts of the book, especially the chapter on monarch migration.

The book is thorough and engaging - folks most interested in this book would be those that have more than a passing interest in lepidoptera - bfly gardeners, bfly house members, ar
Trish Remley
Feb 03, 2011 Trish Remley rated it liked it
I would actually give this book a 3.5. Wow - who knew there was so much shadiness in the butterfly world. I have actually never liked those bright beautiful butterflies mounted in an acrylic case and now I know why. I also have always known that watching a butterfly flying in the garden or walking over to my fennel patch to see if there are any catapillars yet is mesmorizing and now I know why. Yes, I've been to Butterfly World probably 10 years ago and it was quite the experience. As always the ...more
May 17, 2015 Lynne rated it liked it
Made me want to see the Monarchs and educated me about the
trade in butterflies.
Nov 09, 2009 Suzanne rated it liked it
Until I read this book, I had no idea that there was an illegal trade in endangered butterflies going on. I found the book very intriguing.
I always have loved butterflies, both for their beauty and ethereal qualities. I am glad I never had the desire to collect "dead" butterflies, prefering to see them flying free. After reading this book, I certainly will never purchase a butterfly in a display box either. I now know that they are killed immediately after emerging from their chrysalises, never
Jul 10, 2009 Barb rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: general reader
Recommended to Barb by: library
Peter Laufer does a superb job of weaving the personal narrative and investigative journalism in this enjoyable book. Many of books in this genre are weak in substantive information (sources aren't cited, information isn't cross checked, etc.) Peter Laufer fluidly moves from source to cross checked fact to interesting anecdote building up, layer by layer, a portrait of people who have a passion for butterflies. Along the way, the reader is invited to think about politics, sociology, religion, sc ...more
Beth Maddaus
Apr 16, 2012 Beth Maddaus rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
I loved this book so much--truly I almost always love the books I read but this one was different and often made me laugh out loud. I read lots of nature books but this one was different--a nature book written by a war-hardened journalist looking for a change of pace after a difficult book on the Iraq war. Peter Laufer went for every possible perspective on butterflies and dug and dug until all was revealed about the butterflies and their admirers--including criminals who profit from their rare ...more
Dec 21, 2014 Eventer79 rated it liked it
As a wildlife biologist, it is always interesting to me to see our world viewed from the outside, so I liked the perspective of a journalist/war correspondant. Variety of aspects of the world of not only butterflies, but wildlife trafficking & biology's PR in general. Author seems to enjoy the part of antagonist in interviews, but it's a fresh voice & I am always glad to see a new inductee into the group of people who notice & appreciate even the small animals as the important part o ...more
Amy Hassig
Jan 18, 2014 Amy Hassig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I REALLY wanted to fall in love with this book, but sadly I did not. Parts were boring and it took me a while to get into the book where I felt I was forcing myself to finish the book. There are parts that were interesting, such as bringing down a butterfly smuggler and saving endangered butterflies. Otherwise, I was kind of wishing the book would end and I didn't really care for the author's condescending voice. I can't think of anyone I would recommend this book to.
Mar 18, 2010 Allison rated it it was ok
This could have been a really good book. The raw material is great - beautiful creatures and interested people and places but I just found the writing style lacking. Can't even really put it in too words but I just found it a SLOW read because I couldn't get engaged. The writer also has a tendency to let his socio-political ideas occasionally take-over. I didn't necessarily disagree with him, I just didn't need those digressions in my butterfly culture book.
Apr 23, 2010 Aeron rated it really liked it
A nonfiction book by a journalist who usually covers wars. This was a chance to take a break from the violence, and look into the bizarre world of butterflies.

It's a tour through human-butterfly relationships, visiting butterfly breeders, naturalists who hate the breeders, environmentalists fighting to save endangered butterflies, and criminals who collect and sell endangered specimens on the black market. Definitely a fun and interesting read!
Peg Reilly
Jul 25, 2009 Peg Reilly rated it liked it
I saw the author on The Daily Show. It is an interesting read on butterflies and the author's trip to Nicaragua and across the US in his quest to understand why people have butterfly farms and why butterfly purists think commercial interests are wrong and dangerous. Having lived in Nicaragua years ago, I loved reading about the expats there and what they had to say about Nicaragua today (the most dangerous part remains drivers!)
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the allure of butterflies! 2 9 Jul 02, 2009 10:46PM  
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