Saturday, 8 October 2011

BugBooks: Chinery's Insects

Given that the oncoming months will, by necessity, subdued at BugBlog, I have decided to start a new section. I will present and review my favourite books on British bugs, books that I routinely use to find information or to identify the bugs that feature in BugBlog. Please feel free to comment with your own favourites. My first choice has to be undoubtedly Michael Chinery's Insects of Britain and Western Europe, a very informative, superbly illustrated field guide. An additional advantage is its size, soft bound and small. Its 320 pages are absolutely packed with information, including distribution pattern in Western Europe and in Britain, time of the year where they are found, behaviour and habitat. The colour illustrations are superb, detailed and accurate. Many species are illustrated with adult and caterpillar or larvae and the illustrations often shows common behaviour. A key at the beginning of the book will help you identify what group an unidentified insect belongs to. At the end of the book, there is a section with a selection of species of non-insect arthropod groups such as Spiders, Woodlice, Millipedes, Centipedes Scorpions and Harvestmen, which comes in handy.
My copy from the reprinted first edition in 1986, is getting dated. Since it was put together, many new species have arrived to the British Isles and have become now common and are not described (e.g., the ubiquitous Harlequin or the Horse Chestnut Miner). In addition, the distribution of many other species has significantly shifted northwards (e.g Speckled Wood, Comma) or they have moved to the U.K. from the continent (Tree bumblebee, Ivy Bee). But those are minor quibbles, I couldn't do without this book. There is a more recent revised edition (2007), which is a bit pricey. A proviso, this book does not include all species of European insects (there are over 100,000 described), but a selection of the most common or noticeable. Once you become familiar with an insect group - be butterflies, hoverflies or dragonflies - you will require a specialist guide.
 Overall, a must for the bug lover.

2 comments:

thurlestone said...

Hi Bug Blog; I follow your blog and I am so glad you recommend Michael Chinery's field guide, as I have found this invaluable to the novice bug hunter, like myself. I am invloved in running family bug walks at Dunham Massey (youngest participant this summer was 18 months old- bug pot and plastic spoon in each hand she was straight down to the floor under the dead wood! )and I always start the walk by holding up this book as the best one I have found. I am very pleased to have an experts endorsement. Thanks PurpleGround BeetleFan

Blackbird said...

Thank you PurpleGround BeetleFan. Despite having several other insect guides (including a photogrpahic one by Chinery as well), I keep coming to this book againa and again. Keep following, as I plan some more posts on BugBooks over the nest few weeks.