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A Field Guide to Insects: America North of Mexico (Peterson Field Guides) 2nd Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews
ISBN-10: 0395911702
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Richard E. White is a research entomologist at the United States National Museum in Washington and the author of articles and research papers chiefly in his special field of beetles. As an artist he is most experienced in portraying insects, but he also illustrates general biological subjects. Donald J. Borror is a professor of entomology at Ohio State University and the author of books, articles, and recordings. With Dwight M. DeLong he is the coauthor of a widely used textbook, An Introduction to the Study of Insects, now in its fourth edition. Dr. Borror has made several records of bird songs and insect sounds. With Richard D. Alexander he recorded The Songs of Insects, one of the Sounds of Nature disks in the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology series. Roger Tory Peterson, one of the world's greatest naturalists, received every major award for ornithology, natural science, and conservation, as well as numerous honorary degrees, medals, and citations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Peterson Identification System has been called the greatest invention since binoculars, and the Peterson Field Guides® are credited with helping to set the stage for the environmental movement.

Product Details

  • Series: Peterson Field Guides
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2nd edition (April 15, 1998)
  • ISBN-10: 0395911702
  • ASIN: B001TODNT6
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.9 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,697,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Most amateur naturalists tend to expect page after page of photographs or drawings when they purchase a field guide. That is not what you will get in this book.
The authors, Borrer and White, have developed a sort of mini-entomology book for use in the field. The first part of the book contains helpful hints and instructions on how to collect and preserve insects. That section is followed by about 15 pages on the biology and taxonomy of this huge group. Understanding this information is essential if one is put together a useful insect collection. It also helps the insect watcher better understand what they are seeing in the ecology and body plans of these animals. Those sections are followed by over 300 pages of information that will help the determined insect watcher/collecter figure out the kind of animal they are looking at.
You should be advised that this book will NOT help you identify insects to the level of genus and species. The taxonomic information in this book targets primarily the family level (the level above the genus level).
Some reviewers have commented that the lack of color illustrations renders this book nearly useless. You need to understand that, for the serious collector, there are characteristics much more important in figuring out what they are looking at than color. The book is loaded with the kinds of information used by professional entomologists to identify the animals they study.
You should also be reminded that there are thousands of insect species, and many regional variations of those species, so no single field guide could ever hope to provide a comprehensive treatment of the group.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At the risk of repeating myself to readers who are searching for an insect field guide, I said in another review:

Consider the lucky birders. In North America there are less than 900 species of birds. While some may be only 3 or four inches long, others are measured in feet. New birding guides are issued every year. And while a few species, like the empidonax flycatchers may be difficult to tell apart, all of the species are illustrated in most guides, and 90% are identifiable if the birder gets a good look at them.

Now consider the amateur entomologist. There are over 80,000 species of insects in North America. Most insects are relatively small. Telling the difference between species may require examining the vein pattern in wings. The field guides to insects illustrate at most 700 insects. No wonder there are more bird watchers than insect watchers. And no wonder there hasn't been a major insect field guide published since 1981!

A field guide to insects then probably can't help you identify most specific species. The authors feel they have done their job if they can help you identify the family.

The Peterson guide provided a decision tree just inside the front cover that helped me to identify the order of the insects. The tree also provided the page of the guide where the entries for this order could be found. Next I had to flip through the entries, which are arranged in taxological order, examining each of the black and white drawings to find an insect that most closely resembled my specimen. Occasionally a species listing bore a reference to a color drawing found on collected plates in the center of the book. Occasionally detailed drawing were provided for identification, such as a comparison of the wing venation of a family of bees.
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Format: Paperback
The guide aims to cover insects in America north of Mexico to family level. Few families are illustrated by more than a single figure of an adult and, while generally a single sex is shown, exceptions are made for some insects, for example in the color plates of damselflies. Where the sexes are very distinct (e.g. tussock moths or butterflies) it would have been helpful to show figures of both sexes. The book is predominantly one designed for identification and while it provides excellent coverage and a wonderful selection of figures, it rarely includes keys to help the novice zero on a particular family. The endpapers provide a quick and helpful guide to the principal insect orders, but once that level is reached, the reader must hunt out the descriptions of each suborder and/or superfamily to determine the appropriate group. The significant criteria that distinguish these suborders/superfamilies would be much easier to learn and compare were their descriptions put together on the same page rather than scattered through the section waiting to be discovered by searching the text or looking up the appropriate page by using the index. There is good chapter on collection methods and a brief introduction to insect structure and growth. Deficiences include the following - The book was originally published in 1970: however, the publisher has not taken the opportunity to update the original bibliography in any of the reprints. Nor have resources like Entomological organizations been listed. While the worldwide web makes it easier to access this new information, it would have been helpful to see the experts' recommendations.
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