The Golden Age of Field Guides

Is it? Well, there sure are a lot of them now. This new one covers 125 of the most commonly seen bees in our area. The same authors did the The Bees in Your Backyard, which is not a field guide.
This is brand new. Lichen identification is mostly rather difficult.
Quite good, but too big for a field guide, and I wanted more images. The Social Wasps book below uses illustrations (but only covers social wasps; most are solitary, like our bees.)

Coming next year:

The Social Wasps of North America

Princeton Field Guide to North American Spiders

Let’s face it, birds, which are where I started, are ridiculously easy when compared to lichens, spiders, bees, beetles, flies (forget it), wasps, etc. And plants are a hell of a challenge. Oh, the chlorophyl crowd looks easy with those pretty flowers and all, but, oh, boy! There are innumerable field guides to plants–in this house, at a conservative count, we have at least two dozen of them. Sure, your Empidonax flycatchers all look the same, and there are a lot of warblers (Peterson’s “confusing fall warblers” was spot-on), and Accipiters can be tricky (female Sharp-shinned being as large as the male Cooper’s, for instance), but birds are mostly pie. You start getting into the rest of life, though, and look out.

E.g. you distinguish Woodsy Thyme-Moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) by the microscopic marginal teeth on the leaves: they run less than half way down, whereas in the very similar P. ciliare, they go all way along the leaf margin.

2 Responses to “The Golden Age of Field Guides”


  1. 1 elwnyc December 13, 2021 at 11:16 am

    I’ve run out of space for field guides. So if it’s not in one of my books (or lists like my homemade wasp guide on my computer), I’ve started asking for help online. Facebook group “What kind of bug is this?” has been very helpful – lots of misinformation posted by well-meaning “guessers,” but also very knowledgeable answers from moderator Michael Whaley. I have also used BugGuide.net with success.

  2. 2 Charles McAlexander December 13, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Spot on! That’s part of the fun/challenge of experiencing nature. Once you get over the hangup about blowing an ID you can really step back and see what the species is doing. That might even help you make the correct call, but either way you have waded a little deeper into the waters of nature bliss. And there has not been even one species I misidentified that even noticed my error.


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