A Natural History Library
A Veritable Swarm of Outstanding Insect Books
- Sadahiro Ohmomo and Koyo Akiyama, Jewel
Endless Science Information, 1997), $70. A beautiful collection of
color photographs of the Coleopteran family Buprestidae which the authors
accurately name jewel beetles. (Borrer, Triplehorn and Johnson refer to
them as metallic wood-boring beetles and their description of them as
"coppery, green, blue, or black" is well borne out here.) Although only
a few of the pictured beetles are found in North America, this book will
enjoy an honored place on my bookshelves for its artistic rendering of
these striking irridescent insects. The publisher, Joshitsugu Endo,
informs me that this is the second volume in a series that will next
include the families Cerambycidae (Long-horned Beetles), Cicindelidae
(Tiger Beetles) and Scarabaeidae (Scarab Beetles). The already published
first volume on Cetoniinae (Flower Beetles) I have not seen. Of related
interest are the lovely images and music of the associated Jamides web
- Maryjo Koch, Dragonfly Beetle
Collins, 1996). Another tour de force by the author-illustrator of Bird
Egg Feather Nest, Seed Leaf Flower Fruit, and Pond Lake
River Sea. The images in these books are simply breathtaking. Here Ms.
Koch captures not only the insects (and spiders) themselves but also their
setting, their life history, and their roles in our lives and literature.
Although this book is suitable for readers of all ages and backgrounds --
Wayne Gall, a professional entomologist, was captivated by it -- it would
be especially suitable for a parent to read and show to a young child.
- Richard Conniff, Spineless
Wonders: Strange Tales from the
Invertebrate World (New York: Henry Hold and Company, 1996). A
collection of a baker's dozen delightful essays, many with titles that
newspaper headline writers would envy: "The Big Calamari"
about squids, "Lions of the Pond" about dragonflies, "Leapers" about
fleas, "A Small Point of Interest" about mosquitoes, and "Ghosts on Wings"
about moths. These brief chapters represent the essayist at his (or her)
best: they are deeply informed and beautifully written.
- Arthur V. Evans and Charles L. Bellamy, An
Inordinate Fondness for
Beetles (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996), $40. All
entomologists know the story of the famous Victorian British scientist, J.
B. S. Haldane, who, when asked what could be inferred about the Creator
from a study of His works, thought briefly and then replied, "He has an
inordinate fondness for beetles." After studying the remarkable
photographs (by Lisa Charles Watson) and text of this book, it is
reasonable to add, "So have I."
- Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou,
Microcosmos: The Invisible
World of Insects (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1997), $35. My
view of the motion picture Microcosmos ran contrary to that of
everyone else with whom I have talked. It was certainly better than most
of what we experience in theaters today (the stunning quiet best of all)
but I felt that I had seen better wildlife films on television and even
fell asleep briefly during the screening. Thus I approached this book with
some apprehension. Happily I have found it extraordinary. Here are
beautiful images to be studied at leisure together with strong supporting
text. I have already spent hours with my copy and plan to spend many more.
- John Cody, Wings of Paradise: The Great
(Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996).
Seventy-two remarkable paintings of beautiful silkmoths from around the
world. Included among these lovely but, because they are nocturnal, seldom
seen insects are our own Cynthia, Luna, Cecropia, Imperial, Polyphemus,
Io, Promethea, and Royal Walnut Moths as well as a few rarer North
American varieties. Others required trips by the author/artist around the
world. The individual paintings are accompanied by personal essays
that provide insights into the life histories of the moths and the
artist's experiences with them.
- Gary A. Dunn, Insects of the Great Lakes
MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1996) No book can be expected
to do justice to the tens of thousands of insect species to be found in
this region. (The Borrer and White volume in the Peterson Field Guide
series makes this quite clear.) But this book does a remarkable job of
surveying the insect orders and families and identifying a few of the
commoner species. Dunn, arguably our foremost contemporary popularizer of
insects, has packed a tremendous amount of information into this book that
should be on the shelf of every amateur and professional entomologist in
northeastern North America.
- Douglas Yanega, Field Guide to Northeastern
(Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) (Champaign, IL: Illinois Natural History
Survey, 1996), $15. A steal at that price. Color plates of 375 Longhorned
Beetles together with brief identification notes and separate species
synopses that include flight periods, range, larval (not pictured) feeding
habits and identification notes. I have already found this book to be
useful for museum identification.
References to Other Books of Interest
Excerpt from a Remarkable Novel
Charles Frazier, Cold
- Susan J. Wernert, ed., Reader's
Digest North American
Wildlife (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Association, 1982)
Without question the finest single volume reference to our North American
animals and plants. Remarkably this book includes sections on mammals,
birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, invertebrates, trees and shrubs,
wildflowers, nonflowering plants, and mushrooms. Obviously the treatment
is selective, but I have been very pleased by the number of "hits" I have
made when using it for field identification. My only problem: my hardback
copy is tough to carry in the field and I hope that by now a soft cover
edition is available. On the other hand this one book replaces eight
more focused field guides.