Whether you’re looking for the densest of entomology text books or simply a basic entomology book to get started, rest assured you’re in the right place.
On this page you’ll find a selection of some of the hundreds of tomes that I’ve read through over the years.
Just tap the book title or image to see the reviews on Amazon.
10 Of The Best Entomology Books
Chapman’s “The Insects” has been a recognised classic entomology text book for some years now. This, the 4th edition, brings this eminently respected text up-to-date as well as improving its image with the addition of some photographs of electron micrographs. It has been extensively rewritten, and as well as the addition of the results of more recent studies, some chapters have been combined and moved around a bit, and the spelling has gone over to American style. This last apparently because most sales are expected to be to Americans. However the book has not lost any of its user-friendly appearance and is still easily readable.
As an approved text on entomology this work stands out from all the others I have reviewed by manifesting a fundamentally different approach. There is no taxonomic review of the insect orders in this work, no chapter on classification or on population ecology and nothing on evolution and ancestral insects. Instead it is entirely devoted to describing what insects are and how they operate within the world on an immediate level. In this it is a leader in its field. Being able to use the extra space afforded by the missing chapters to look more comprehensively at insect physiology and how this physiology mediates an insects perception of, and responses to, its environment.
Contains the following chapters: Head; Mouthparts and feeding; Alimentary canal, digestion and absorption; Nutrition; Circulatory system, blood and immune system; Fat body; Thorax; Legs and locomotion; Wings and flight; Muscles; Abdomen; Reproductive system: male; Reproductive system: female; The Egg and embryology; Postembryonic development; Integument; Gaseous exchange; Excretion and salt and water regulation; Thermal relations; Nervous system; Endocrine system; Vision; Mechanoreception; chemoreception; Visual signals: color and light production; Mechanical communication: producing sound and substrate vibrations; Chemical communication: pheromones and chemicals with interspecific significance; Taxonomic index; Subject index.
All in all this is an excellent entomology textbook, worthy of its renewed place in any academic or collegial library.
by R. E. Snodgrass.
This is a reprinting of the 1935 classic work by the same author and title. As it is still regarded as the single most important text on insect morphology in the English Language, its republication is of great value to the entomological world. The science of morphology has been helped greatly in the last decade by SEM photography which allows for the amazing microstructure of the insect cuticle to be seen. A possibility that was not available to Snodgrass and hence is not a part of this book. However apart from this the fundamentals of insect morphology have not been more clearly or precisely expressed than in this book.
The work is divided into 24 chapters, many of which include individual glossaries, while chapter 12 which deals with the mouth in 64 pages has subchapters on the feeding mechanisms of 2 different insect orders.
This is an invaluable work for students of entomology at all levels of study and should be available in all college and university libraries.
Contains the following chapters: Introduction; General Organisation and Development; The Body Wall and its Derivatives; Body Regions, Sclerites and Segmentation; The Segmental Appendages of Arthropods; The Head; The Thorax; The Thoracic Legs; The Wings; The Abdomen; The Organs of Ingestion; The Alimentary Canal; The Organs of Distribution, Conservation and Elimination; The Respiratory System; The Nervous System; The Sense Organs; The Internal Organs of Reproduction; The Organs of Copulation and Oviposition.
As far as Entomology goes Imms has been my bible for years and I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to get serious about insects. It contains an absolute wealth of material often in considerable detail written in a lucid and highly readable style. It comes in two volumes, the first is devoted to Structure, Physiology and Development, and at 400 pages, is a major text book in its own rite. The second is concerned with Classification and Biology, and in 1300 pages gives an excellent introduction to the biology of all the insect orders as well as to most of the families within those orders. As far as I know you can not find a comparable amount of information in one source anywhere else.
The 10th edition, revised by R G Davies and the late O W Richards, is now 20 years old. This means that the taxonomy is a bit out of touch with modern cladistic and phylogentic interpretations, i.e. the Collembola and the Diplura are still part of the Insects in Imms, whereas most modern interpretations have them separated from the rest of the insects as a stem group of the Hexapoda. It also means that the most up to date references, of which there are many are also 20 years old.
However having said that I would honestly say that any School which is attempting to teach entomology to its students without at least one copy of Imms on its shelf is making life hard for itself. Further more I would say any self respecting student of Entomology really aught to have their own copy, I found mine invaluable as an undergraduate and still do.
By P. J. Gullan & P. S. Cranston
First published in 1994, Gullan and Cranston’s “The Insects” is a welcome addition to the world of entomological textbooks. It is well written, and presented in a style that makes it more accessible to the less knowledgeable reader than is Imms and other comparable texts. It is a considerably smaller and cheaper text than Imms and, though it therefore ultimately contains less information, it still packs a large amount of comprehensive, fascinating and varied facts into its 490 pages.
There is a strong emphasis on the ecological side of entomology which adds to the enjoyment of reading it. I feel that the brevity with which it reviews the various insect orders is a serious shortcoming which makes it difficult for it stand alone as an entomological text. The 29 page glossary will be of considerable use to students of all ages.
Its readable style, and the fact that it is obviously up to date makes it, in my opinion, an excellent introduction to entomology for the interested amateur who wants to know more than just the basic facts given in most coffee table books on insects, as well as for the serious student. The large amount of information it contains will make it continue to be of use as the student grows in knowledge. It is is well illustrated with large clear b/w drawings and in as much as it complements rather than replaces Imms will make a valuable and much used addition to any school or university library.
By Cedric Gillott
This is a very complete and up do date text on entomology, the author has written it aimed at University level students and as such the language may make it hard reading for users below this level, it is however very readable.
Its nearly 800 pages contain an absolute wealth of information and include a 250 page section giving a valuable introduction to the various insect orders. I particularly like the honesty in some parts, such as in the taxonomy section where ‘state of the art’ ideas are presented for discussion and the reasons behind changes in nomenclature and systematics are explained rather than just presented as new facts.
The intelligence, thoughtfulness and love of subject of the author shine through in this entomology book, giving it a good feel and making it a pleasure to use. On the negative side a number of the b/w drawings (particularly those of whole animals) have been around for a long time and seem to have somehow lost clarity in the reproduction. Also the lack of a glossary of terms will probably annoy the less well read students. However considering that it is aimed specifically at senior university level entomology students this is probably the best stand alone entomology book that I have seen, which is still in print, (bearing in mind that there are quite a few I haven’t seen yet).
by JG. Gordh and D. H. Headrick
It is a massive work containing 43,000 definitions of 28,000 terms, names and phrases in over 1000 pages. It includes as well as the obvious entomological words the names of many deceased entomologists with the publication details of their biographies or obituaries. It also claims to list all insect names down to subfamily level, though I haven’t the ability to check this and its is probably out of date already, taxonomy being like that. Many words are given their origin but not all, amongst those I tested it with were ichneumon from the Greek for ‘tracker’ but it does not tell you this or give any hint as to the origin of the word ichneumon.
Though it is obviously highly comprehensive and very competent, better than anything else I currently own, not a difficult test, it is not perfect. In a brief survey I was able to find definitions I was not happy with. A “Myrmecochore” is described as “An oily seed which attracts ants that transport it”. This leave a lot to the imagination and doesn’t really explain the important part that the seed is oily adaptively so that ants will transport it.
I would also have liked to see some reference here to elaiosomes and the fact that the seeds are generally not eaten. Though Myrmecochory is listed as “Dispersal of seeds (myrmecochores) by ants” again there is no link to elaiosomes which are fairly fundamental to the process. Finally myrmecophytes, “Higher plants that live in obligatory, mutualistic relationships with ants.” is not listed at all.
Having had my say, which only really proves that if you try hard you can find some faults in a 1,000 page entomology book, almost inevitable I would say, I should express my feeling that the dictionary is very up-to-date and will be extremely useful to both students and researchers, particularly those in fields that only partially overlap with entomology. Every library deserves to have its own copy.
By W. T. Johnson & H. H. Lyon
Though only about 5% of the known insect species are pests and even less than that pests of trees and shrubs, it is these insects that make up the bulk of the insects that people ordinarily experience. There is something very annoying about finding your favourite tree or shrub being eaten alive by some obnoxious little bug. Even if it is an attractive and fascinating insect at the same time. This book is an answer to most of the questions asked by gardeners, foresters and horticulturists concerning insects.
It is a compendium of 950 of the commonest woody plant pests that occur in the USA and Canada. Half of it is taken up with plates which are composed of about 5 to 8 photos. Each plate generally gives photos of eggs, larvae, adult and plant damage of the species concerned. The photos are excellent and will allow, in conjunction with text, for easy identification of most pest species.
The text is also excellent. It is clear, accurate and contains all the information needed. The book makes a very good reference for schools and colleges as well because of the detail of life history data supplied. I was impressed with this book both with the quality and quantity of information supplied as well as by the manner in which it is presented. The colour plates and text are augmented by numerous figures depicting yearly life cycles and tables summarising data in an easily accessible form.
The book is well referenced with a bibliography of over 900 entries. The indexes are well constructed and should enhance use of the work. There is also a glossary and a final chapter on sources of information concerning pests and their control in USA and Canada.
The second edition is considerably updated and revised from the already successful first edition, containing 29 new plates and much additional information.
All in all whoever you are, if you deal in woody plants, whether as a professional forester or horticulturist or as a simple house owner with a small garden, you will want a copy of this book available when those inevitable insects come calling.
by M. Chinery
This is the perfect counter-point to the above, it is really a 320 page treatise on European entomology. Though it contains far fewer illustrations, this is well compensated for by the excellent quality of the text.
A 30 page introduction to insects in general is followed by a series of introductions to each of the orders that occur in Europe, including keys to superfamily and then to family level in many cases. Even the Collembola (Springtails) get nearly 3 pages which is more than you can find in most more expensive entomology textbooks.
The keys are excellently constructed, the only down side is the illustrations which are not as good as in the above. I know many people who like me own a copy of both of these, the Pocket Guide comes out into the field and the Field Guide, in hardback remains at home to read at leisure later and to help sort out those problems that require a little more than just pictures. If you find that you want to go further than either of these two it is time to start looking for books which deal with only one group or part of a group, by now you know you are seriously hooked and will be wanting to add a small microscope to your hand lens and notebook. At £16.99. an excellent value present for yourself or anyone else.
This rather unusual book from Apollo Press came as a pleasant surprise, however I had a little difficulty deciding how to classify it. It is a fascinating book to browse through, yet it deals only with a few examples of each family it deals with so it could not be called a text. In the end I decided to describe it as a coffee-table resource, meaning that it has many of the properties of a coffee table book, but is also a useful information resource. The book is wide ranging in that it includes insects from all continents and a wide variety of habitats.
The book is dedicated to those insects that live, at least part of their lives in water, it comprises 900+ SEM photos of excellent quality and with magnifications ranging from 2.5 to 12,000. The central themes of the book are the ‘basic functions of an aquatic life’, respiration and osmoregulation have been described for all groups of insects, including Collembola, which possess aquatic members.
Many of the plates show sections of the animal’s anatomy at several magnifications. Each plate has 6 photos and opposite it there is a textual reference to the relevant aspects of the animal’s biology as illustrated in the plate, there is also a title-description of each photo on the plates. The textual information itself is vast, ranging over the entire field of aquatic entomology and would amount to a 170 page text of the morphology physiology of aquatic insects.
The beauty of many of the microstructures of the insect cuticle, and sometimes also it ugliness are well illustrated in this fascinating volume. I can see this book being of great interest and enjoyment to both professional and amateur entomologists as well as being of great value to researchers and students who have in anyway to deal with the ecology, morphology and/or physiology of aquatic insects. As usual with books from Apollo Press this volume is not only attractively produced but also attractively priced.
by R. H. Arnett, Jr.
This massive work of 850 A4 size pages, is more of a table book than a handbook weighing in as it does at just over 2 kilos. Despite this huge size it still it only manages to mention just over 7,600 of the almost 90,000 species claimed for North America. It therefore exemplifies the main problem with books of this sort i.e., the subject matter is really too large to be included in a single work.
The book contains an immense amount of information, including a short description of all known North American pest species, keys to orders, keys to families and lists of all the genera encountered in North America. It has an extensive and complete index but is I feel rather lacking in references. I can see its main use would be in schools, where it will serve as an introduction to insects and a valuable resource on higher level identification. It will also be of some use to other users with little knowledge and a broad interest in entomology such as those working in the field of pest control.
However I would expect that most potential users would do better to acquire a less expensive introductory text with a key to orders and then get smaller works dealing with the particular groups they want to look more closely at. My personal experience is that interested amateurs will simply find this book’s massive amount of primarily taxonomic information, its independent numbering system and the lack of colour images frustrating because in trying to be everything it is not really anything at all very fully.
There are also some personal quirks of the author which might cause confusion i.e. he states categorically that the correct name for the order Diplura is Entotrophi, saying that some people have recently started using the term Diplura in error, yet my records show that the order was being referred to as the Diplura in expert texts at least as long ago as the 1940s (in fact I only have one other text which even mentions the term Entotrophi and that is another American and relatively modern one). Another surprise was to find that the totals in at least 2 columns of table 1.2 on page 8 are incorrect reinforcing the image of a lack of attention to detail. Undoubtedly this entomology book has its place in many libraries as it represents a resource not available in any other single place.
Well, I hope this resource has been useful to you! If you’re concerned with the Lepidoptera specifically, make sure to check out our page on books about butterflies.
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- 13 Best Books About Butterflies (That I’ve Actually Read) - October 21, 2020