Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Winging It: What Species is Tilley's Butterfly?

Filed under: Letters & Challenges   Tagged: , , , , , ,


Pollux writes:

What species is Eustace Tilley’s butterfly?

Back in May 2009 I posited the suggestion that Tilley’s nameless butterfly, which to me symbolizes creative inspiration, is a
Clouded Sulphur, whose scientific name is Colias philodice. The Clouded Sulphur’s range includes New York. Is it possible Rea Irvin had a specific butterfly in mind?

Perhaps not. Tilley’s Butterfly, of course, is a symbol rather than a literal depiction of a specific butterfly species, but it’s fun to play the amateur lepidopterist.

What do you think?

At Emdashes we like to speculate and theorize about things like this. It gives us wings. If any professional lepidopterists are reading this, we’d also love for you to share your thoughts.


Paul, I’ve asked my mother, a butterfly socialist (which means nothing, but I think we should popularize the phrase), if she can pinpoint it. I’d forgotten about this challenge, but it’s worth reviving!

We should ask the world’s premiere butterfly bloggers. Martin introduced me to the site whatbird.com. Surely there’s a butterfly equivalent!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree