Garden Insects of North America: Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs, New Edition

BOOK NOTE: I interrupt this book review to note that Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman is currently available, again, as a Kindle book, for two bucks. And now returning to our regularly scheduled review.

Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs is not a pocket field guide. How could it be? There are over a million species of insects and probably a lot more (huge numbers certainly remain to be discovered) and of them, some 100,000 exist in North America. I’m actually not sure how many are represented in this book, but several thousand distributed among some 3,000 illustrations, mostly color photographs.

Note the use of the word “bug” in the title. This represents a recognition that words mean what people say they mean, and to North Americans with back yards, “bug” means a lot of things beyond the “true bugs” (which make up a subset of actual insects). Not also that this book does have info on creatures that are not insects, in order to help sort out the difference among the crawly buggy things you encounter in the actual back yard.

The insects in this book are divided up by specific microhabitat and behavior traits, such as “insects that eat leaves” or “insects assocaited with stems, twigs, shoots, and canes.” I’m not sure if I would have done it that way but I’m not an insect expert. The problem with insects, and one of the more interesting things about them, is their metamorphosis. Metamorphosis isn’t just about changing from a worm to a flying object, but also, changing diet and behavior considerably. So, today’s insect associated with a twig, as a small speck embedded in a foamy icky thing, is tomorrow’s insect associated with some other micro-habitat, and a winged creature that does not even eat.

This is a big giant and very pretty book, is as comprehensive as you are going to get for coverage of insects, and so far in the limited use I’ve given it prior to the arrival of snow and ice, is helpful and works as an identification guide.

There is almost no front or back matter, but what is there is helpful. Pages 42 through 682 is all beezness. (Though the bees actually start on page 672.)

Despite its stated focus on the garden, Garden Insects of North America seems to have more coverage than my other various insect books put together, except for beetles, for which you want to see Beetles of Eastern North America, if you are east of the Rockies.

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