Insect Books

Princeton Nature is going strong these days. Eaton‘s book is a slim compendium of insect lore. Just a few of the entries: Amber, Delusory Parasitosis, Killer Bees, Seed Dispersal, Snow Insects, Xerces Society. I could, frankly, handle a lot more of it. Two things really jumped out at me. On the subject of insect decline, there is much anecdote and debate, but one hard piece of evidence is a study of Whip-poor-wills that shows they are eating smaller insects than they used to; there just aren’t enough big ones any more. And how high do insects fly (or get wafted along)? Specimens have been found at 19,685 feet (6000m).

Piper’s book, as its cover suggests, is much more pictorial. “Richly illustrated” is a worthy description here. A lot of ground is covered, but the category “insects” is mind-blowingly vast, so, like the Eaton, this volume also leaves you wanting more. Here’s a taste: venom has independently evolved at least 14 times in insects; memories formed by the larva are retained in the adult; the dung of introduced cattle in Australia was of no interest to native dung beetles, who evolved with marsupials. The result was a continent plagued with furies of flies breeding in the cow pats until the introduction, starting in the 1960s, of numerous species of dung beetles.

And this, practically just off the printing presses, is a massive field guide to hundreds of species of spiders. I’ve literally just started looking at it…

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