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Audubon Butterfly DVD Review by Donna Campos and Kathy Gelzer

Audubon Butterfly DVD: Essentials for Beginners and Gardeners
Paul A. Opler and Jim Ebner
969 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10028

The Audubon Butterfly DVD: Essentials for Beginners and Gardeners is 2 hours and 30 minutes in length and includes two programs previously released as two VHS videos: Audubon Society’s Butterflies for Beginners and Audubon Society’s Butterfly Gardening. Each of the two programs is divided into three sections. “Butterflies for Beginners” is divided into Butterfly Basics, Common American Butterflies, and Raising Butterflies from Caterpillars. Butterfly Gardening Basics, The Plant Gallery, and The Butterfly Gallery make up the “Butterfly Gardening” portion of the DVD. Viewers may choose to begin viewing at any of the listed sections or by utilizing the chapter feature of the DVD. Designed to educate anyone with an interest in butterflies, it includes an easy to understand introduction to butterfly biology, lifecycles, and behavior. The identification section covers 30 of the most common species. The program includes plenty of beautiful footage, soft background music, and excellent narration throughout. It is not touted as a thorough curriculum, but it would serve well as support material on any level of butterfly education and is appropriate for all ages.

The program is filled with interesting facts. Viewers learn that it would take 40 years to see every unique butterfly if you saw a new one every day. Each of the thousands of butterflies has its own unique egg design; most lay hundreds of eggs so that at least a few will survive. (Note that the program shows caterpillars eating their skin after molting, as well as another insect eating a caterpillar as prey.) Some written notes are included on the screen; using the pause feature will enable a viewer to take notes, if desired. The program even includes a microscopic view of wings, a mating scene (tastefully done), and an explanation of the differences between butterflies and moths. The section of 26 Common American Butterflies includes “cards” of information, all numbered, if you choose to pause the program and take notes. First, it runs through all 26 butterflies briefly, and then it offers detail on each, including areas in America to find them. Each butterfly selected also offers a map with shaded areas of habitat. The Butterfly Gardening portion of the program provides instruction for how to plant a garden that will attract butterflies. You may use information from the Common American Butterflies segment to choose good plants to attract butterflies appropriate for your area.

Viewers are advised to be careful and know regulations when collecting plants from public or private areas. Some milkweed and thistle are illegal, and no plant should be taken without permission from private areas. “Puddling” is the term for male butterflies sucking water from mud, and advice is given to help a gardener set up a “puddling” area. The use of chemical pesticides should be avoided, as this may kill some butterflies. And when weeding, be aware that many weeds are excellent food for butterflies. The Plant Gallery reviews 25 of the best commercially available plants that are also easiest to grow. These are broken down by groups of shrubs and woody perennials, flowers and non-woody perennials, and herbs. Information is given with name, blooming times, height, zones, and lists of which butterflies will prefer the plant. The Butterfly Gallery includes more than 60 garden visitors by size and then by color. The narration includes field marks, sex, range, flight time, habitat, flower preferences, and caterpillar foods. The Butterfly Gallery is divided by Large butterflies (of more than 3 ½ inches), Medium butterflies (1 ½ - 3 ½ inches), and Small (less than 1 ½ inches). More tips are included for identifying in the wild, along with more beautiful footage of butterflies in all their glory.

The Audubon Butterfly DVD is a beautiful program filled with fantastic visual footage of flowers and butterflies of every color, shape, and size. It is ideal for viewing while working on a notebooking or lapbooking project pertaining to butterflies or flowers. For nonreading students, it provides a wealth of information that would be difficult to obtain from Nature Guides. Visual students will enjoy the many beautiful scenes, the seemingly endless shots of butterflies in their natural surroundings, and the professional nature footage. We have a budding butterfly enthusiast in our home, and he was thrilled to view this DVD. The included information spurred him on to further research and drew him toward quietly watching the yard and park for more butterflies in their natural surroundings. Every family with young children and a yard should own this DVD and watch it a few times in the spring and summer. Families could select several butterflies to head out and search for in the neighborhood or parks. We too often miss the simple pleasures in life. Butterfly watching is a definite gift from God that we should enjoy. The Audubon Butterfly DVD will help you to do so.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2008

The Audubon Butterfly DVD, subtitled "Essentials for Beginners and Gardeners" is a 2 1/2-hour documentary. It contains two programs: Butterflies for Beginners and Butterfly Gardening. The narrator has a pleasant voice and perfect diction. The photography is amazingly beautiful, extremely clear, and very close-up. Calm Baroque background music accompanies the documentary. The music is appropriate and never distracting. In fact, one of my daughters didn't even notice it until I mentioned it later.

Butterflies for Beginners contains three chapters. "Butterfly Basics" follows the life-cycle of a butterfly, body parts (introducing specific vocabulary), their fight for life--finding food and avoiding being food, the mating process, Monarch migration, and a comparison of moths and butterflies.

The second chapter, "Common American Butterflies," is a photo gallery of 26 of the most common butterflies. There are two pages devoted to each butterfly. The first shows a photo with size and common and scientific names. The second page is text arranged in a small chart with flight patterns, habitat, and caterpillar foods.

The last chapter in Butterflies for Beginners is called "Raising Butterflies from Caterpillars." This would be a fascinating science project for the family. This chapter contains a note about collecting butterflies. Actually, there is some controversy about this method of studying butterflies, and The Audubon Society frowns on this practice.

The second program is called Butterfly Gardening. The first chapter, "Butterfly Gardening Basics," talks about how to grow a butterfly garden. The various sizes and settings of gardens are discussed, as well as the basic needs of sunshine and nectar plants. Other considerations such as caterpillar food plants, plant arrangement, a variety of seasonal bloomers, and places for butterflies to settle are covered. This chapter gives an overall introduction to those wanting to plant a butterfly garden.

Next, "The Plant Gallery" shows close-up photos of "25 of the best and easiest to grow shrubs, flowers, and herbs" for attracting butterflies. They are listed alphabetically by section and include common and scientific names, whether it is an annual or perennial, blooming time, height, growing zones, types of butterflies that it attracts, and specific care suggestions for each plant.

The last chapter is "The Butterfly Gallery." Here are 63 species of butterflies, arranged first by size of large, medium, and small and within each category by color from light to dark. This differs from the first program's "Common American Butterflies" chapter not only because it lists more species, but also because it shows live shots of the butterflies. The butterflies are all indexed by number. This chapter would be especially useful for identifying specific butterflies.

There are no age recommendations given; however, I think the DVD would appeal to families in general, especially those studying butterflies for school or personal interest. Running time is 2 1/2 hours, so it is not the sort of material to watch in one sitting during your family movie night. Rather, it is to be viewed one section or chapter at a time according to need or interest.

The two program menus have big, beautiful background photos of butterflies, but these make the text difficult to read. I also wish the two program titles and chapters (or access points) for each had been formatted differently on the DVD case back cover and insert (as well as on the DVD menu itself). It was a little difficult to distinguish what was what. This could easily be corrected by setting the two program titles apart visually with different font style/size or other style choices such as spacing, bullets, indentation, etc.

My daughter wished the DVD had contained a geographical or zonal index to the butterflies so we could learn about the ones in our region particularly.

I cannot emphasize enough the supreme quality of this production. You can hear every consonant the narrator pronounces and see even the proboscis as the butterflies feed.

Product review by: Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008