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Book Reviews

Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity

by Stephen A. Marshall

Insects is not a book for the merely ento-curious. Stephen A. Marshall, an entomology professor at the University of Guelph for almost 25 years, has assembled here an exhaustive – and somewhat exhausting, given the book’s heft – guide to all of the creepies and crawlies that inhabit the fields, forests, and homes of eastern North America.

“Entomology,” Marshall writes in his introduction, “is both an absorbing hobby and scientific frontier we can push forward through backyard observations.” This book is for the backyard enthusiast, eager to see if the thing he’s just spotted is something never before seen in the world of insectdom, or just another friggin’ mosquito. To that end, Marshall has designed this book so that a reader can easily identify just about any given bug by order or family.

Insects is based on the lecture notes and visual material Marshall has been using in the classroom, so the book is heavy on information and low on “wow, cool” full-page shots of neat-looking bugs. (Though there are a few, such as that of the Abbot’s Sphinx caterpillar pictured above, which has a large, fake eye on its rear-end to scare or confuse predators, an adaptation that probably doesn’t work as well as would a big set of teeth or claws, but then, Nature isn’t perfect.)

Given all that, and the book’s non-flea-sized pricetag, Insects is probably more suited for a classroom reference library than the coffee table.