It's All Greek to Me - by Rick Mikula

Now that you are getting more involved with butterflies, scientific names are going to start popping out at you quicker than Colias eurytheme on a hot July day. This is the time most people become intimidated and back off not wanting to look foolish by improperly pronouncing a name that they are uncomfortable with.

Common names can be regional, national, or subject to the current school of thought. Throw in a few accents or dialects, and no one knows what the heck you�re talking about. That is when the scientific names become a saving grace. It may seem impossible at first, but by starting out with a few of the more likely encounters, they will give you the feel for others.

There are a few basic tips that will help you along. In scientific names all the vowels are pronounced. They can be long or short but none are silent. The accent above the vowel will tell you if it is long or short. The grave accent (`) indicates a long vowel i.e. làte, mèet and kìte. The acute accent (´) signifies the short vowels pronounced as cút, bát, or tót.

When two vowels are written together, but pronounced as one, they form what is called a diphthong. All Lepidoptera family and subfamily names end in the most common of all diphthongs, ae. It is pronounced as è or ee.

With consonants the letters C and G are the problems. When C is followed by ae, e, oe, i, or y it has a soft 'S' sound. When the letter C is followed by a, h, o, oi, or u it then takes on the hard sound of 'K'. When the letter G is followed by ae, e, oe, i, or y it is a soft 'J' sound, but when followed by a, o, oi, or u it it pronounced hard as in go.

This won't cure all your butterfly pronouncing problems but is meant to help point you in the right direction. The more attention and time you spend in your pursuit of butterflies the easier it will become for you. If you still feel intimidated by it all, don't fret. just get out there and appreciate them for just being beautiful butterflies.

Butterflies
Milkweed Danàidae dah-này-ah-dee
Swallowtails & Parnassians Papiliónidae pap-ill-ee-ón-ah-dee
Brush-Footed Nymphálidae nim-fál-ah-dee
Longwings Heliconìidae Hel-ah-cone-eyè-ah-dee
Whites & Sulphurs Piéridae pee-áir-ah-dee
Satyrs Satýridae sa-téar-ah-dee
Snout Libythèdae libby-thèe-ah-dee
Gossamer Wings Lycaènidae lie-sèen-ah-dee
Skippers Hesperìidae hes-per-eyè-ah-dee
Moths
Sphinx or Hawk Sphíngidae sfén-jah-dee
Silk & Royal Saturnìidae sat-uhr-nyè-ah-dee
Tigers Arctìidae ark-tèe-ah-dee
Tent caterpillars Lasiocámpidae lass-ee-oh-cámp-ah-dee