Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holiday field guide gift guide - 16 guides for 2016 (part 2)

Field Guides to Insects

5.  Pollinators of Native Plants:  Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants by Heather Holm (ISBN 9780991356300).

If you already own a bunch of field guides to plant you probably spend a lot of time looking at plants.  If you spend a lot of time looking at plants you probably see lots of insects.  You might even wonder what the insects are and why you see different ones on different flowers.  If this describes you, then you want to own this book.

I heard the author of this book speak at the 2016 Wildflower Association of Michigan Conference and bought the book the same day.  It is the first book that I am aware of that talks specifically about the associations between native plants and their pollinators.  Although the book is limited in scope with only sixty-five plant species being featured, it includes more than 1600 photographs of flowers and insects!

This flower species in this book are arranged by habitat type.  Each species of plant is given a spread of two (or more) pages that includes a description of the plant, range map, flowering period, and habitat requirements, as well as a list of pollinator species (with photographs).  If you want to plant wildflowers as habitat for bees and butterflies, this is a must-have.  The book was published by Pollination Press LLC and retails for about $30.

6.  Butterflies of Michigan Field Guide by Jaret C. Daniels (ISBN9781591930983)

At some point you might want to know more about a specific group of insects.  Butterflies are a great place to start - there are only 147 species that are likely to be found in Michigan. 

I like this book because each species has its own two page spread.  The information provided includes detailed description, as well as a range map, a list of larval host plants, a calendar showing when it can be encountered, and a list of comparable species.  There are also pictures of both adults and larva - several entries in the book to not have larval photographs.  Another feature that I really like about this book is that the butterflies are divided by color - if a species has more than one color morph it is listed in more than one section.  This sensible approach to identification is something that you usually do not see outside of wildflower books, but it works well for butterflies.

Unlike some of the other books on this list, this is a true "field" guide.  It is small enough (about 5 inches by 7 inches) and light enough to stick in your back pocket and carry all day. The book was published by Adventure Publications in 2005.  It retails for under $20.  I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Michigan's butterfly species as well as anyone interested in observing the relationship between insects and native plants.

7.  Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie (ISBN 9780547238487).

If butterflies are too easy (There are only 147 Michigan species after all!), it may be time to try your hand at moth identification.  I was really excited back in 2011 when I found out that this book was in development.  I was so excited that I asked for it for Christmas in 2012 - Thanks Shara!

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the moths in this book are arranged by family.  There is a color photograph for each species, with arrows pointing to distinguishing marks.  There is also a brief description and range map for each species.  If you are not familiar with all of the different types of moths, the book can be daunting to use - there are nearly 1500 species depicted in this guide.  Even so, this guide is worth having because of the breadth of species that it covers.  At $29 it is a reasonable price for such an extensive resource.

8.  Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History by David L. Wagner (ISBN 9780691121444)

Published by the Princeton University Press in 2005, this book has all the qualities of a book you would expect from a guide published by a well-renowned university.  It is extensive (more than 700 species), well illustrated with photographs of both caterpillar and their adult forms, and well researched.  Each species description includes information information on range, season, and host plants as well as a detailed description of each species.

The book is slightly too large to carry in your pocket (5 inches by 8 inches).  It is also quite heavy - it is printed on a heavy paper and runs more than 500 pages.  It is however the best guide to caterpillars that I own, so I do frequently carry it in my backpack while out in the field.  Priced at under $25, this is a great edition to the bookshelf of any nature nut or gardener who wants to know what is eating their plants.

9.  A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America by J. Reese Voshell, Jr. (ISBN 9780939923878)

If you would rather wade in swamps and river than chase butterflies through fields, this might be the book for you.  I spend much of the spring working with students to catch and identify aquatic insects (and other macroinvertebrates).  Although I can identify most of the things that we find by sight, this is the book that I use if I want more detailed information.

Although much of the book is devoted to aquatic insects, there are also sections on mollusks (clams and mussels), gastropods (snails), annelids (worms), crustaceans (crayfish, shrimp, etc.), and more.  The book starts with a discussion of aquatic ecology and the roles, life histories, and pollution tolerance of various groups of aquatic invertebrates.  It also provides a  description of collection methods for various organisms and habitats.   There is a separate section of color illustrations which is useful for identification.  The main part of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of the various organisms.

Published by the McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company in 2002, this book currently sells for nearly $40.  It is a valuable resource for citizen ecologists, fishermen, and anyone interested in what is going on beneath the surface of any body of freshwater.  Despite the hefty price, I highly recommend this book.

10.  Beetle of Eastern North America by Arthur V. Evans (ISBN 9780691133041)

Among other things, I am a beetle fanatic.  When I heard that this book was being published in 2014 I could hardly wait to buy it.  I was not disappointed.

Another book by the Princeton University Press, it is simply the best beetle identification book available for the eastern United States and Canada.  By no stretch of the imagination is this a field guide - it measures 8 inches wide by 10 inches long and has over 550 pages.  Photographs and description of more than 1400 species are included in this book.  It is almost as much a coffee table book as it is field guide - the photographs of the individual beetles are often stunning.  I can admit to looking through this book for hours.  At $35, this book is an incredible value for its size and scope.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Any naturalist would be excited to receive this as a holiday gift.

The species in the book are arrange by family - all 115 families found east of the Mississippi River are represented in the book.  Each section of the book begins with a general description of the family and is followed by detailed descriptions of individual species.

That's it for field guides to insects and other invertebrates.  Look for Part 3 (field guides to other animals) later this week.

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