Version 1.0 released Jan. 18, 2010
32.9 MB, $7.99 from iTunes
Just a few weeks ago I was complaining that North American butterfly enthusiasts lack an iPhone app for butterfly identification in the way provided by the iPhone app Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. No sooner had I published that review than Mike Reese emailed to say he and collaborators had done just that, albeit for a smaller slice of the North American lep fauna.
Keen butterfly scholars are well aware of Mike’s work on wisconsinbutterflies.org, arguably the best state-specific Web site available in the U.S. Fans of wisconsinbutterflies.org will find many of the things they like about that site reflected in the iPhone app, including excellent photographs of all but a few species covered in the database and a phenogram for each species (assuming it is common enough to provide data) generated by sightings contributed to the Web site. The app includes all 157 species ever reported in the state.
Users enter Wisconsin Butterflies on a page organized phylogenetically by major butterfly group. Clicking on the group takes you to, say all the swallowtails or all the hairstreaks in the app, listed vertically (all the functions are vertical; none of the operations converts to landscape view) accompanied by a thumbnail that is too small to do more than hint at what the butterfly actually looks like. But one click into the species description yields a very thorough narrative description for each species, including discriminating characteristics that separate it from similar species, host plant and nectar associations, and general natural history notes. The end of the species account (often several scrolls long) is signaled by the phenogram.
But the real strength of this app lies in the narratives. The species accounts are all Mike’s, and are rich in detail that field lepidopterists in Wisconsin will find very useful, including behavioral characteristics and photography tips. The writing is uniformly clear and crisp, and reflects many hard hours in the field.
The species account also contains a tab to images, usually several, of the adult butterflies in various field aspects. These images are, happily, high resolution and zoomable using the iPhone enlarge functions (text is also zoomable, but the portrait or vertical orientation makes it hard to squeeze as much text on the page in larger font as a landscape toggle might support). The app features some 600 images.
Mike’s one major concern is that AT&T coverage is still pretty spotty in Wisconsin outside of the metro areas, so you wouldn’t be able to access any of the few truly interactive parts of the app. But that’s a truly minor disadvantage; in airplane mode the app is very robust and I can envision it as a very handy application in the field. For what it’s worth, I’m already planning a trip to Wisconsin to try it out — that’s how compelling Mike’s write-ups are!