on April 7, 2004
"Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs" is simply a gem of a book. Illustrated with beautiful color photos, many by the author, this is the ultimate guide to every conceivable insect or other arthropod you might find in your backyard. It also tells you what to expect from each of these creatures (will it eat my rose bushes?)
I first bought a copy for the Arthropod Museum library and then, after using the book for a few days, ordered my own copy. It is well written and authoritative (Whitney Cranshaw is a respected entomologist at Colorado State University) and very well illustrated. Color plates of stinkbugs, scale insects, aphids, beneficial insects etc. give the reader a fantastic overview of the variety of arthropods they can find around their own homes. The price is also very good ($20.00 for a thick book with hundreds of color photos is remarkable today!) and I simply cannot see how anyone interested in gardening or backyard bug watching would not want a copy.
Highly recommended for anyone with a reason to know anything about the numerous six and eight-legged creatures beyond their back door.
Whether you harbor a fascination for insects or are on a search-and-destroy mission, you will find this enormous identification book a fascinating look at North American insects. Organized by the type of damage the insects inflict (leaf chewers, trunk borers, sap suckers, etc.) this book devotes considerable space to individual insects, discussing such specifics as hosts, damage, distribution, appearance, and habits. Major pests are given more space than the less common. For example, the Colorado Potato Beetle is given nearly a full page while the asparagus miner is described in a short paragraph. The accompanying color photographs are usually helpful, though some could be improved since the visual details aren't always clear.
Especially for organic gardeners, the section on beneficial species is extremely helpful. Since predators are not always identifiable to the novice, the photographs and accompanying text assist in protecting the species that will provide a natural balance in the garden. For example, most people will not recognize the larva form of the lady beetle, the species with a voracious appetite for aphids, adelgids, and other pests, but this guide shows all life stages of it. Other beneficials, including some species of wasps, look as ugly and as destructive as their prey. An appendix cross-references particular plants with their most likely pests, which cuts down the time it takes to identify most species.
Because of both the color photographs, some showing the different life stages of a particular species, and the text, this guide is a wonderful tool for the gardener or budding entomologist.
I bought this book based on the numerous glowing reviews it has received. I was sure I was going to love it and find it very useful. I have an organic yard and attracting insects is one of my goals, so I have a fair sampling of insects that I want to identify. The pictures in this book are plentiful, but they are too small, and too blurry, and shot at weird angles so you can't see all the markings, and shot in natural light so you can't really see some of the defining features. If I didn't already know what some of the insects were, I might not be able to recognize them from the photos in the book. So, the book isn't going to help me with a quick identification of the things I'm seeing in my yard. Perhaps if you are a bug expert, this would be a good book, but it isn't what I was hoping for.
on March 7, 2005
When I first received this book I was very impressed. It's a thick book filled with countless species. Navigating the book was very easy and most of the pictures are excellent, with the exception of a few blurry shots that really pissed me off. The blurry shots should have been replaced before going to print, perhaps they had some issues? Again who knows! But I didn't like it.
The information in the book is well done, and there is plenty for a ID guide such as this. Their is a lack of certain details on insect parts and/or habits, and I am sure the text is not meant as a treatise on each subject. But even the lack of not having documented insect parts I don't think you will have any trouble identifying the insects in this book by the photos alone.
This is a very vast tome of insects! And I find this guide very useful. The book documents leaf and vegetation damage which is very handy. And commonly shows photos of the different life stages of the insects. The price of this book is wonderfully low! A very good low cost guide to common garden insects, literally. And surprisingly they even manage to throw in a very small section on spiders, not even an insect.
(If you want to ID spiders, purchase "Spiders and their kin" from St. Martin's press; see tag at the bottom of this review.)
I prefer this guide over the Audubon guide hands down!
The Peterson's guide may be a good compliment since it's nicely illustrated, but certainly NOT a replacement nor substitute.
I just wish the hardcover version of this book wasn't so expensive in comparison to it's paperback, definitely get the paperback. No matter how much you love hardcover.
A bit about field guides:
I am an avid fan of both photo and illustrated field guides, and if your serious about identifying similar species (insects and plants alike) both types of guides are recommended. Photos are great as they are actual images of the subjects being compared, but when looking at the bits and pieces of a subject. Like the leg spines of certain crickets and comparing them through photos and microscopy. Sometimes a flat clearly drawn image is better than the actual thing. Glare, color, and genetic differences can effect the photo ID. I would encourage any budding entomologist get and use both.
Feel free to check out my Amazon members page, I am a hobby entomologist and like to chat with and help others with similar interests.
on March 6, 2005
If it's only one book on garden pests you seek for your collection, make it Whitney Cranshaw's Garden Insects Of North America: The Ultimate Guide To Backyard Bugs. Color photos packed throughout make for a weighty paperback which is the most comprehensive, yet the most user-friendly, big bible going. Over 1,420 bugs from fruit flies to borers, aphids to bees, are covered, organizing them not by bug but by plant area affected for quick reference, and by taxa within that. The latest pest management tips for each are here, too, along with all key stages of insect life. Cranshow is a professor and specialist at Colorado State University: his guide should be a standard not just for public library reference collections, but any avid home gardner's bookshelf.
on December 31, 2013
I really, really wanted to like this book. I am a dedicated organic gardener, and my method of pest control is a combination of encouraging beneficial insects and squashing things I find on my plants. Obviously, if I can't identify the things I find, I don't know if squashing would be helpful or harmful. But this book gives me very little assistance. It is divided into types of insects (e.g. leaf chewers, sap suckers, leaf miners, flower feeders), but from there you have to just start guessing and searching for pictures that match what you're seeing. If a section is 100+ pages, that's a lot of searching. You also have to hope that what you have found is in the same state of development as the picture in the book (larval vs. chrysalis, nymph vs. mature, etc.). I have spent many hours pouring through the pages and coming up empty handed. It is very frustrating, so I can't recommend the book.
on February 16, 2006
As a University Extension Division Master Gardener, I frequently staff Q&A booths. This is the favorite book, hands down, to assist in identifying insects. Between the great insect photos and the illustrations of leaf damage, we can often help the home gardeners positively identify their problem without an actual captured bug to guide us.
I have had to guard my copy to keep it from going home with my friends!
on August 18, 2006
This is the only book I've found with the pictures of the different stages of the insects. Since most harmful insects do their worst damage before they reach the adult stage, this information is very important.
I am a Master Gardener and was referred to this book by another Master Gardener. The rest of the same books I ordered were for other Master Gardeners.
on September 29, 2005
As an avid gardener,I have a number of reference books on insects.None are as comprehensive or as informative as "Garden Insects of North America:The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs".The color plates are extremely helpful in identification and the descriptions are well written and concise. A course in entomology is not a prerequisit for using this text. It is well worth the money.
They really don't make one volume books on a given subject much better than this one. Now do keep in mind that one book simply cannot cover every single insect, bug or critter that plague a garden or orchard, but this one comes pretty close. The photographs are wonderful and not only give clear pictures of the adult insect, but also in it's various stages of growth, from egg on up. I am constantly turning to this work for the help I need. Other than using it for my garden and orchard, I also photograph insects and other small creatures and plants for a hobby. Many of these insects are quite difficult to identify and I find myself turning to this volume more and more for initial identification before I grab a more detailed text type book. The written descriptions are quite accurate as is the other information, such as living conditions, geographical locations, life cycle, etc. If you must purchase only one book covering the subject, then this is the one you want. Recommend this one highly.