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

4.3 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews
ISBN-10: 0395911702
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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.

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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 (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,222,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on November 22, 2004
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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Format: Paperback
"In this century," according to ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich, "no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson, the inventor of the modern field guide." Peterson's "Guide to the Birds" - "the first modern field guide" - was published in 1934. Its pioneering approach was to use visual characteristics rather than technical data to identify species. This was achieved by grouping similar species together on a plate, using clear, two-dimensional illustrations, and pointers to key field marks as well as succinct text, a combination known as the Peterson Identification System. That revolutionary style was later applied to a host of field guides covering anything from the night sky to moths and geology to mushrooms and including the present volume.

Here we have Number 19 in the Peterson Field Guide Series, published in 1970 and still in the original edition. Borror, an entomologist and well-known sound-recordist, is the author and contributed line-drawings. The main illustrations, in colour and monochrome, are by Richard White.

With over 90,000 species of insects in America north of Mexico, a field guide to the insects must choose between being highly selective or else providing an overview to enable the user to identify major taxonomic groups. This guide achieves the latter aim admirably, allowing the reader to identify most insects to family level for 579 families. Apart from the systematic text, there are introductory chapters on collecting insects, studying live insects and basic insect biology as well as a handy Glossary.

Because of the mammoth diversity of insects, a single volume work cannot be expected to allow the reader to identify insects to species by using colour plates.
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