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Collins Complete British Insects - Michael Chinery

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4 Reviews

Genre: Science / Nature / Author: Michael Chinery / Paperback / 320 Pages / Book is published 2005-04-04 by Collins

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    4 Reviews
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      18.06.2013 16:56
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      A wonderful book for all ages.

      My sons have taken to bug hunting lately. We bought a few children's books to help them identify the insects they captured, but these are quite general and all too often we could not find the right species. I put "bugs" and "insects" in to dooyoo and came up with this. There reviews were positive, and clicking over to Amazon, I found the price very fair at only £2.81 for a used copy. Unfortunately it is a bit more now, with the cheapest copy on Amazon costing £5.38 used and a newer edition for £10.87 new. If you or your child has a real interest in studying insects, this really is essential kit, and even at the highest price, I feel this is value for money.

      What's in the book?

      This book begins with 65 pages of general information on insects. You will learn what is and what is not an insect as well as the correct scientific definition of "bug". This may be a bit complex for younger children, but an adult can read and summarise. I found that there was far more information on insects that I did not know, than information which I already knew, so I learned quite a lot from this section myself. I focused on the identification and classification sections with the children. The life cycle part was interesting, but I have other books better suited to children ( more pictures, easier to understand text) for this purpose. If you are interested though, there is even a section on the sex life of dragon flies. There is a very good, though brief section on social insects, and the insect defence section is excellent with some wonderful photos which the children really enjoyed. Finally we learn about different insect habitats.

      The main body of the book consists of species descriptions, of which there are over 1,500. These are grouped together by order, making it easy to find what you are looking for. The page on the right hand side is always a group of full colour photographs. All of these are very high quality close ups. On the left is text giving names , descriptions and areas of distribution for each insect. This is very clear and easy to follow with a chart showing you which picture goes with each description and a map showing where this insect can me found. Although this book is titled "Complete British Insects", information for both Northern and Southern Ireland is provided. I was very happy to see this as Northern Ireland is often left out of British guides, and of course I want a book that shows the insects where we live. This section will also have a short paragraph about the sub order of the specimens on this page.

      The individual species information for each insect in necessarily short. Considering the fact that you only get one paragraph per insect the amount of information is surprisingly high. There is no wasted space or waffle here, just the facts and nothing but the facts. In most cases the common name is printed in bold capital followed by the scientific name in italics. In some cases there is no common name, only the scientific name, which would then take the place of the common name in bold capital letters. This is followed by the size range for this insect. Facts will include information for identification as well as general information, and times when you might find these insects. There may also be information about social habits, diet, possible migration etc...

      What's not in the book:

      This book is insects only. There are no worms, spiders, snails, woodlice or any other creature that is not an insect. Some children's books will include these other creepy crawlies with insects, but this is an adult book, written by serious a entomologist. Judging by the paragraph stating that the practice of calling all insects bugs should be discouraged, I think the author would be mortified to hear spiders and such referred to as insects ( or bugs). Of course I knew all the other garden invertebrates the children find would not be listed in this book, so I will not rate down for it. It would be rather like rating a book of Chinese cooking down for not including pizza recipes, but I do wish there was a book like this, with easy to follow identification guides for all the things we might find in the garden.

      Also although fleas and lice are technically insects, they are not included in the species identification guide. There is a brief section on them in the classification part at the beginning of the book, but no way to identify different varieties. This suits me fine. I'm itching thinking about it anyway, and hopefully my sons will not be collecting any specimens of either.

      Our experience:

      This is not a children's book. I can't imagine any child picking this up and reading it cover to cover. But, although it is intended for adults, I can see no reason why a child of ages 8+ could not use this book on their own , and even my four year old has enjoyed this with help. At age eight, my oldest can easily look through the pictures to identify his latest catch. he can then read the facts for this insect, which although written an adult level, are short enough not to bog a child a down and easily understood. The only problem he has is in how the Latin names should be pronounced and I suspect many adults would have the same problem. I know I certainly do - so I just take a wild guess and go with it. There are some large scientific names the average child will not know, and once again I fall in with the children on this one. I had absolutely no idea what a Eruciform was, but thankfully, these words do not come up often and there is a glossary for those of with less of background in the sciences.

      But even if a child is unable to understand the odd word, they could certainly use this to identify and learn about any insect they discover. If a parent is available to help, the learning opportunities would be magnified, but I could see a child as young as six enjoying just looking at the pictures and finding the names, even without adult help. If you have a child who is seriously interested in insect hunting, they may as well know what they are looking at as they bring different bugs in to observe. I also feel that learning to sort insects by order and sub order, learning about their habitats and habits is very useful knowledge that could apply to other sciences in the future. I would highly recommend this, or the newer version as an absolute must have item for a bug collecting kit.

      I would also recommend this book very highly for adults with a strong interest in nature. This is full of fascinating facts and I have really enjoyed this book. Even if you hate insects - the more you know about them, the better you might be able to defend your garden. But if you learn enough about them, you are certain to find many you like as well.

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        18.12.2009 12:57
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        Probably the best short guide available: recommended.

        Those who enjoy the countryside may wish to identify the insects they see on their travels. The chief difficulty is the sheer number of species present - tens of thousands in the UK alone - many of which look very similar. So where to start? This helpful guide is about as good as it gets. There is a brief introduction that outlines what an insect is and explains the major groups. A short section on insects in different habitats is also useful, especially if you have ever wondered where clothes moths lived before humans wore clothes (birds' nests, apparently). The bulk of the book however consists of photographs and brief descriptions of a few thousand of the more commonly encountered species.

        To keep the book within manageable proportions, each bug is allotted a small colour photograph, a brief description including Latin name, size and habitat, and a UK distribution map. The species included are well chosen; the emphasis is on large, conspicuous, daytime insects that the average amateur is likely to wish to identify. Clearly, many species are omitted but most of these, for example tiny night-flying moths, will never be seen unless one is looking for them. This is a book for the casual observer, not the aspiring entomologist.

        With the aid of this book it is possible to identify almost every insect that catches your eye. The author has sensibly included illustrations of conspicuous larvae, caterpillars, and even galls, and there are some surprises: large, aggressive larvae become innocuous looking ladybirds; the galls on the underside of oak leaves give birth to tiny wasps.

        Additional information is given to help differentiate similar species - the close-up illustrations of the abdomens of dragonflies make identification more straightforward using this guide than it is with more specialist books. The photographs are excellent, if small, and a browse through reveals the extraordinary variety of forms present in the microscopic world of insects: seen close up, the humble weevil looks like something from another planet. A glossary of technical terms completes the book.

        This book will add greatly to the enjoyment of walkers, and possibly even gardeners, who like to identify what they see. Take along a digital camera with a macro facility, make some photos of interesting insects, and use this book to identify them and learn more about them.

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          18.04.2009 11:45
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          Really useful if you're looking to identify insects you see.

          There are over 20,000 species of insects in the British Isles, from tiny mites less than 1 millimetre long to huge hawk moths with a wingspan of over 15 centimetres. Their variety is amazing; from beautiful and gentle, like the butterflies, to ugly and nasty, like the blood-sucking horse flies.

          I enjoy walking in the countryside, and am one of those people who likes to identify what they see; whether it's a bird, tree or insect, I like to put a name to it. When out walking, I'm also interested in learning more about the things around me, and from a practical point of view, whether any of the plants or animals I encounter, can do me any harm.

          This is where this book comes in. It's a superb guide to the most common insects in the British Isles. Over 1,500 creatures are shown and described.

          The book is divided into three sections. The first describes the various insect families, shown in taxonomic order, describing each group's habits and habitats, in general.

          The section on parasitic insects makes slightly gruesome reading. The insects such as the parasitic wasps must surely have been the inspiration for the alien in Ridley Scott's film of the same name. These capture another insect, paralyse them and lay their eggs on in their motionless prey. When the eggs hatch, they eat their host, alive.

          There's also a fascinating description of the various defensive strategies that insects employ such as camouflage and mimicry (many creatures, such as the spectacular hornet clearwing moth, look like wasps to discourage potential predators).

          The second section shows the various habitats of the British Isles, from woodland and grassland to aquatic environments. In this section, the types of insect likely to be encountered is indicated (for example, grasshoppers and glow worms will be found in chalk grasslands).

          The final section makes up the bulk of the book and describes each of the 1,500 insects covered. Each species has a small paragraph detailing its appearance, habits and habitats, whilst a small map shows where it can be found. There is at least one, sometimes two, clear photographs to aid with identification.

          The text is laid out on the left hand page, with the photographs on the right. This is great for flicking through to try and spot the insect you're interested in.

          One of the best features of this book is that, for moths and butterflies, the caterpillars are shown as well as the adults. Many caterpillars are brightly coloured, and rather obvious. This book will help to identify them.

          The photographs are almost all of a very high standard, and show the insects in all their glory. Some are spectacularly ugly such as the assassin bugs and if larger, would be the stuff of nightmares. Others are stunningly beautiful. The banded demoiselle dragonfly, for example, when viewed in sunlight, appears as if hewn from a piece of emerald as it glows in the sun's rays.

          This book is an invaluable guide to the insects of the British Isles. It is incredibly comprehensive; most of the large insects you're likely to encounter in this country are covered in this book. The information about the insects' life cycles and behaviours makes for fascinating, if sometimes gruesome reading.

          If you want to be able to identify the insects that you see in Britain, then this brilliant book will probably be all you need. One thing to note, however, spiders are not included in the book as they're not classed as insects.

          This excellent guide is available from Amazon for £12.99 in paperback.

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            12.07.2008 12:36
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            A book about British insects

            Mention the word insects or bugs and many people suddenly come over all squeamish but not me. Some may say that I was a peculiar child, I had an old fish tank that I turned into a home for earthworms and later I had a colony of ants, so I think that it is fair to say that my fascination with creepy crawlies started early.

            No entomologist, like myself would be without a good book to identify these creatures that are all around us and a book called the Complete British Insects by Michael Chinery is in my opinion one of the best such books available. This book was first published by Collins in 2005 with a R.R.P for the paperback version of £16.99. This price might seem somewhat hefty but for me and many others it is well worth the price.

            There are over 20,000 different insect species that can be found in the British Isles so producing a field guide like this was no easy task. There have been many attempts over the years but these have generally resulted in something that resembled the Yellow Pages in size and they are certainly not the sort of guide that you could slip into your rucksack and carry around with you.

            In just 384 compact pages this guide covers all of the most common insects that occur in Britain. Insects with a wingspan of less than 5mm have however been omitted as these can normally only be successfully identified by use of a microscope. The book also does not include spiders, which everyone knows are a part of the phylum Arthropoda along with insects but they do not belong to the Insecta branch.

            The book begins with a few pages that give an introduction to the subject. These include details of what an insect actually is and how they have been classified into their 30 different major groups (known as Orders). These Orders include butterflies and moths, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets etc as well as the things that so many of us find unpleasant like earwigs and cockroaches. Most of us would be happy to find an usually brightly coloured butterfly or a rare ladybird in the garden, but none of us, not even me, would want to find a colony of common cockroaches anywhere near my home.

            The book is arranged chronologically by Orders. As a child whilst most of my friends were kicking a football around the field I was busy studying Voous. For those of you unfamiliar with this mans work, which I assume will be the majority of you, Karl Hendrick Voous was a Dutch ornithologist who recently died in 2002. He not only gave both common and scientific names to virtually every bird on the planet he also chronologically arranged them all by Order, leaving a legacy that will probably remain unchanged for eternity. Sadly no other group of living animals or plants have been so carefully and meticulously arranged and this is true also of the insects. Scientists are for instance still arguing as to whether the group of insects known as Neuroptera (lacewings, alderflies and snakeflies) which are generally lumped together in a single Order, do in fact constitute three separate distinct Orders. Nomenclature of all living things is very complex but it is based on the evolutional development of each species. This book adopts the most commonly accepted beliefs, but with the rapid use of DNA our knowledge is changing all of the time.

            Each of the species that is represented in the book has a colour photograph down the right hand side of the page. Each page typically contains between ten and a dozen colour plates. Down the opposite left hand side of the page each of these species is then given its name, a description of its main identification features, The habitat in which it is usually found and the months of the year in which it can be seen. Each species also has a map showing its distribution within Britain. It is worth noting that of the 20,000 or so insects known to Britain less than 2,000 have a common name so although the common name of the insect is given where it exists, for the majority only its Latin, scientific name is given.

            The book begins with mayflies and dragonflies and ends with bees, wasps and ants. The whole book is incredibly user-friendly as well as being compact and light enough to carry around and the colour plates on the right hand pages make it very easy to flick through and go straight to the relevant section. At the end of the book there is an index to both the common and scientific names of each of the insects.

            Personally I think that this book is an invaluable guide to the insects of Britain. It is by no means an exhaustive guide but nor does it claim to be. Each year there are hundreds are migrant insects that are recorded in Britain but there true homes are many miles away, often in Southern Europe and North Africa but also North America and Asia, these such species are not covered here in this guide. There are also many species of insects in Britain that are very rare, some are known from only a single site and again these are not covered here. What is however covered in this guide will account for 99% of what you are likely to encounter in your lifetime.

            On a final note, if you have managed to read so far without feeling squeamish I would like to say that I think that insects should be given a fair chance. Without them we would not exist and they are so fragile that they are perhaps the greatest barometer (along with marine life) to global climate changes that we have.

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