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The Titles

Food Webs and Container Habitats, by R. L. Kitching
Insect Predator-Prey Dynamics, by A. F. G. Dixon
The Insects, Structure and Function, by R. F. Chapman.
The Evolution of Mating Systems in Insects and Arachnids, by Jae C. Choe and Bernard J. Crespi (Eds).
The Evolution of Social Behaviour in Insects and Arachnids, by Jae C. Choe and Bernard J. Crespi (Eds).
Insect Migration, by V.A. Drake and A.G. Gatehouse (Eds)
The Ecology of Insect Overwintering, by R.S. Leather, K.F.A. Walters and J.S.Bale
The Ecology and Natural History of Tropical Bees, by D.W.Roubik

The Reviews

Food Webs and Container Habitats

The Natural history and ecology of phytotelmata, by R. L. Kitching

ISBN = 0521 77316 4
Price = £65.00 (Hbk)
Published = 2000
Review written = 2/February/2001
428 pages

I have to admit that my previous experience of phytotelmata has been relatively minor. Rot holes in trees have always been good places to search for beetle and syrphid larvae however but the dryer ones were better. I did develop an interest in the ecology of teasel leaf axils when I was working at IGER North Wyke, but unfortunately the interest had to be shelved for lack of time. This book however promised to answer some of the questions still hanging around from then so it was with hopeful expectations that I set about reading it.

My expectations were plentifully fulfilled, I could hardly put it down so enjoyable experience did it turn out to be. Kitching, who has a long history of studying phytotelmata across the world, has added to this initial core a considerable amount of research effort, in order to make this work a success. Not only is the book a well conceived and constructed text on phytotelmata but Kitching's writing style is free flowing, lucid and considerate of his readers.

The book starts with a definition of phytotelmata in various forms, then it continues by delineating the organism groups commonly found in phytotelmata. Part one finishes with an introduction to the various factors effecting the ecological conditions within phytotelmata. Part two is an introduction to the construction of, and use of, 'food webs' with special reference to phytotelmata. Part three consists of five chapters looking at the the roles of various factors such as intercontinental, continental and regional spatial scales on the construction of real time food webs. It also looks at the effects of host plants and seasonal variation on the ecology of phytotelmata drawing from actual examples consistently throughout.

Part four continues the ecological evaluations this time looking at competition and predation within the light of stochastic processes at varying spatial levels. The book moves towards a close in part five where the author synthesises the data, themes and ideas already presented throughout the bulk of the volume.

Following the textual pages there is an 75 page annexe listing and describing the various taxa of organisms found in phytotelmata. Each family level entry is accompanied a selection of key references. Finally the book ends in the references and index.

This is a real treasure of a book, it could have the alternate title "A Lab Guide to Studying Phytotelmata", and if it doesn't increase the research being done on these fascinating habitats then the human race is in a sorrier state than I realised.

Highly Recommended

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Insect Predator-Prey Dynamics

Ladybird Beetles and Biological Control, by A. F. G. Dixon

ISBN = 0521 62203 4
Price = £45.00 (Pbk)
Published = 2000
Review written = 23/January/2001
257 pages

Ladybird beetles, the coccinelidae, are among the most written about non-pest insects outside of honey bees and the lepidoptera. I already have four about them on my shelf so I thought I was reasonable well read on them, this book has deepened my understanding of them however. The book takes a deep look at the biology of predacious coccinelids from a particular standpoint, the predictability of their value as pest control agents. I expect that most readers will find new ways of thinking about ladybird beetles within its covers.

Ladybird beetles have been at the centre of some off the most amazing examples of biological control of crop pests. In fact they launched the concept in the western mind. They have unfortunately also been at the centre of many more attempts at biological control that range from mediocre successes to outright failures. This volume looks at a variety of life history parametres of the two groups of ladybird beetles used in biological control (aphidophagus and coccidophagus species) to see if it is possible to estimate in advance how successful a particular species is likely to be.

Chapter one introduces the book as a whole. chapter two is an introduction to the coccinelidae in general. Chapter three discusses the known facts relating to variability in adult size within a species as a function of temperature and food supply, which combine to control both development and growth. Chapter four introduces the slow-fast continuum in life history parametres, something which is central to the whole focus of the book. Chapter five is foraging behaviour. This is treated in some detail as it is the heart of the matter where biological control is concerned. This theme is continued in chapter six which looks at the data on the high rate of cannibalism among aphidophagus coccinelids. the suggestion is that cannibalism may be a successful strategy when prey number may vary considerably during the life time of a single predator generation.

Chapter seven introduces and discusses the theory of predator-prey interactions, comparing predators such as coccinelids with parasitoids. Chapter eight looks at the nature and effects of intraguild predation. Chapter nine wraps the previous eight chapters up in a discussion on biological control, its nature, ethics, and practicality. Finally chapter ten is the epilogue, in which the author reiterates his conclusions that low generation time ratio and high prey specificity are the key factors for identifying high quality prospect for future biological control agents.

Dixon is an accomplished author, and this book is, for a volume of its scientific integrity, easy to read. It well deserves its place on the shelf of any ecologist or academic institute that teachers modern ecology.

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The Insects, Structure and Function 4th Ed.

by R. F. Chapman.
ISBN = 0521 578906 Pbk
Price = £35.00 (Pbk)
Published = 1998
Review written = 13/May/1999
770 pages

Chapman's "The Insects" has been a recognised classic textbook on entomology 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 fundementally 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 textbook, worthy of its renewed place in any academic or collegial library.

Highly Recommended

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The Evolution of Mating Systems in Insects and Arachnids

by Jae C. Choe and Bernard J. Crespi (Eds)

ISBN = 0521 58029 3 Hbk, ISBN 0521 158976 2 Pbk
Price = £80.00 (Hbk), £29.95 (Pbk)
Published = March 1997
Review written = 25/Sep/1998
246 mm x 189 mm 387pp

This book compliments its sister volume on Social Behaviour by the same Author/Editors and it would not be unreasonable to consider both books as two volume of one publication given the relatedness of their subject matter. Mating systems in all animals are fascinating because it is here we often see the most diverse effects of evolution. Arachnids in particular, being entirely predatory have evolved a whole suite of actions and responses which allow the two sexes to come together for this all important mixing of the genes. The difficulty of course is making sure that each potential mate, particularly if female, distinguishes between a mate and dinner, or at least separating the two long enough to allow mating to occur.

The subject matter is huge and it would be foolish to expect anything but a small glimpse in a single book. For this reason I think the editors were being a bit over ambitious attempting insects and arachnids when the arachnids easily need a book entirely for themselves. Of the 21 chapters 5 are general to varying degrees and two of these include arachnids; of the remaining 16, 2 are concerned with arachnids, one jumping spiders and one pseudoscorpions. Though this may be a representative of species numbers and diversity, it emphasises my point that this book has attempted too large a job. Of the remaining 14 chapters 3 are on the Orthoptera, 2 of Lepidoptera, 2 on Hymenoptera (not fortunately aculeates) 2 on Coleoptera, 1 on Hemiptera, 1 on Diptera, 1 on Zoraptera, 1 on Odonata and 1 on Neuropterids.

It is particularly pleasant to see, as in the sister volume, chapters on insect orders/groups generally less well covered in the literature, i.e. Psuedoscorpions and Zoraptera in particular. I think these will be of particular interest to students. However, this is not to denigrate the other chapters, even those that deal with relatively familiar groups such as the Odenata and Lepidoptera manage to add some new slants and information. There is a lot of information made available here that would otherwise have been difficult or nearly impossible to track down, the chapters are well written and though he book has a strong theoretical basis, I think most arthropod ecologists will get as much joy as I have from reading it.

All in all an excellent and valuable addition to the literature.

Highly Recommended

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The Evolution of Social Behaviour in Insects and Arachnids

by Jae C. Choe and Bernard J. Crespi (Eds)

ISBN = 0 521 58028 5 (Hbk), 0 521 58977 0 (Pbk)
Price = £90.00 (Hbk), £32.50 (Pbk)
Published = March 1997
Review written = 15/Sep/1998
246 x 189 mm 551pp
70 line diagrams
18 half-tones
97 tables

Because we are socail animals sociality is one of the habits that fascinates and endears us when we see it in other animals. for many people it gives us a way of relating to the animals we are observing by making them more like us. For scientists it represents an opportunity to study the evolutionary constraints and pathways that have lead to, and maintain, sociality in animals. Nearly everything that has been published recently on sociality in arthropods has been on social insects or as part of a taxon text, i.e Foelix's "The Biology of Spiders". Furthermore the recently published "Cooperation in Animals" by Lee Alan Dugatkin looked almost exclusively at vertebrates, taking only a brief look at the eusocial Hymenoptera.

This book then fills a much needed empty space in the literature. comprised of 24 chapters and 551 pages it takes a comprehensive and exciting look at sociality in all its forms. The various chapters reach across the whole spectrum of the insect and arachnid world providing a rich diversity of topics that is both enlightening and a pleasure to read. The emphasis is on understanding the forces that generate/d the evolution of the sociality we now observe, in both its primitive and more advanced expression. The authors in a number of chapters have had the courage to step outside the stereotype centrepiece images of sociality and its origins and to present controversial and challenging ideas. It is not important, whether or not for instance ou accept the validity of the hypothesis that maternal activity in the hemiptera is an evolutionarily early, and difficult to sustain practice that has been mostly abandoned in favour of other methods of egg protection. What is important is that these ideas are coherently expressed in a book making them accessible to a far larger audience than the would encounter in a paper.

With chapters on a great range of groups, (see below) this work is both a fascinating read for anyone interested in arthropod ecology but also an excellent first resource for students and researchers all around the world. Both the authors and the editors are to be congratulated on the production on this wonderful book.

Contains the following chapters:- Introduction; 1. Are behavioural classifications blinders to natural variation?; 2. Life beneath silk walls: a review of the primitively social Embiidina; 3. Post-ovulation parental investment and parental care in cockroaches; 4. The spectrum of eusociality in termites; 5. Maternal care in the Hemiptera: ancestry, alternatives and current adaptive value; 6. Evolution of parental care in the giant water bugs (Heteroptera: Belostomatidae); 7. The evolution of sociality in aphids: a clone’s eye view; 8. Ecology and evolution of social behaviour among Australian gall thrips; 9. Interactions among males, females and offspring in bark and ambrosia beetles: the significance of living in holes for the evolution of social behaviourLawrence; 10. Biparental care and social evolution in burying beetles: lessons from the larder; 11. Subsocial behavior in Scarabaeiinae; 12. Evolution of social behavior in Passalidae (Coleoptera); 13. The evolution of social behaviour in the Augochlorine bees (Hymenoptera: Halicitidae) based on a phylogenetic analysis of the data; 14. Demography and sociality in halictine bees (Hymenoptera: Halictidae); 15.Behavioural environments of sweat bees (Halictinae) and variability in social organization; 16. Intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with social evolution in allodapine bees; 17. Cooperative breeding in wasps and vertebrates: the role of ecological constraints; 18. Morphologically 'primitive' ants: comparative review of social characters, and the importance of queen-worker dimorphism; 19. Social conflict and cooperation among founding queens in ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae); 20. Social evolution in the lepidoptera: ecological context and communication in larval societies; 21. Sociality and kin selection in Acari; 22. Colonial web-building spiders: balancing the costs and benefits of group living; 23. Causes and consequences of cooperation and permanent-sociality in spiders Letitia Aviles; 24. Evolution and explanation of social systems; Index.
Highly Recommended

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Insect Migration

by V.A. Drake and A.G. Gatehouse (Eds)

ISBN = 0 521 440009
Price = £50.00 (hbk)
Published = 1995
Review written = 23/Feb/1997
478 pages

For some people the most fascinating thing about insects is the fact that many of them are migratory, whether you are this extreme in your views or not, the fact of insect migration is exciting to most entomologists and naturalists. This book is a series of scholarly papers covering the 'state of the art' of insect migratory science, with particular reference to pest species. It contains four sections, 1) Insect migration in relation to weather and climate, containing 9 chapters. 2) Adaptations for migration, containing 5 chapters. 3) Forecasting migrant pests, containing 5 chapters. 4) Overview and synthesis, containing 2 chapters. On the whole this book is well written and produced and should be a valuable and useful resource for all those working in or studying the science of insect pest control for some considerable time. It will also be of interest to anyone already interested in insect migration, as well as to libraries in general, but particularly academic ones. If you already know a bit about insect migration, find it interesting and want to know more, then this book will be enjoyable reading. However it is not an introduction to insect migration for the lay person, if you are just looking to learn a bit about insect migration and are not used to reading properly referenced works read "Insect Migration" by C.B.Williams in the Collins New Naturalists series (out of print) first, and then come back to this if you are still fascinated.

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The Ecology of Insect Overwintering

by R.S. Leather, K.F.A. Walters and J.S.Bale

ISBN = 0 521 556708
Price = £19.95 (pbk)
Published = 1993
Review written = 23/Feb/1997
255 pages

Insect overwintering is a fascinating and ecologically diverse subject which is of importance to all ecologist but particularly to those working in the fields of 'insect pest control' and 'insect population ecology'. This book contains a wealth of information, covering the complete breadth of the subject and will make a valuable text for colleges and universities as well as an important resource for those working in 'pest management. It contains chapters on ; What is Overwintering? Advantages and disadvantages, effects of local habitat, site selection, the stimuli controlling diapause and overwintering (induction, maintenance and emergence from the state). As well as; Insect cold hardiness,costs and benefits, winter active insects, winter avoidance, costs (physical, metabolic and reproductive), and using this knowledge to help pest control, predicting outbreaks. Unfortunately the facts are not particularly well presented, in fact, it is in places quite poorly written, including many unfinished concepts, and partially explained ideas. It also suffers from being poorly indexed, This book is of value because of the information it contains but it could have been a lot better.

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The Ecology and Natural History of Tropical Bees

by D.W.Roubik

ISBN = 0 521 429099
Price = £18.95 (pbk)
Published = 1992
Review written = 23/Feb/1997
514 pages

Bees are among the most fascinating creatures on this earth, they are also inherently attractive, partly because we know they are 'good guys' and partly because they are often furry and generally feed their young on plant products. Bees both solitary and social are also of immense economic importance to man, more so in temperate regions than tropical ones though they are important there also. David Roubik's book brings together the the considerable research which has been done on tropical bees over the last 20 years in a highly readable synthesis of the subject. Well referenced with a 60+ page bibliography this work is sufficiently rigorous to serve as a text for university level students. It is however pleasant to be able to say that this is not a book "written for experts by another expert" as is too often the case but is thoughtfully constructed and could I feel be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in bees, natural history or the tropical environment. Sections include: 1) Introduction, 2)Foraging and Pollination, (mechanisms and adaptations, flight activity, navigation, thermoregulation, predation and mimicry, pollination ecology). 3) Nesting and reproductive biology, (bee nests, enemies, associates, defence, mating and brood production). 4) Community Ecology, (seasonality, abundance flower preference, assemblages, diversity and community structure). All in all this is a well written and informative book, an excellent addition to the ever growing list of entomological literature.
Highly Recommended

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