This is a neat little book which is quite pleasant to read. Dixon is an internationally recognised expert in the field of Aphid Ecology and he writes with considerable clarity. In the introduction Dixon says he is writing for a specialised entomological audience of advanced undergraduates and postgraduates, however it is my contention that much of this book could be read by seriously interested amateur naturalists with a little effort.
The book starts with a brief general introduction to aphids. From there it quickly moves on through a series of easy to follow steps to discuss all those major aspects of aphid ecology considered important by aphid ecologists. This means the book is slanted towards those who are seeking to understand and control aphid population growth. Perhaps because of this slant some interesting aspects of aphid ecology are glossed over lightly or missed out entirely. Two examples are i) mating strategies which are not mentioned apart from a brief note about mate-guarding by males. Parthenogenesis is dealt with quite thoroughly but all the intricacies associated with sexual reproduction, such as mate recognition, mate choice and courtship are absent. This to a certain extent reflects the state of current research interests. However I feel that a few pages on these subjects as well as something on overwintering strategies, cold tolerance of different stages, micro-habitat choices etc. would have given this book a much more complete feel. Other dissatisfactions are the figures, some of which are poorly or confusing labelled, and the lack of a glossary. Considering that this work is aimed at students I would have thought that a glossary would have comprised a very valuable additional few pages, especially in relationship to the terms gynoparae, oviparae, sexuparae and virginoparae which are undefined and confusingly similar.
Apart from these quibbles, which do not really detract from the high quality of the work, this remains a book which contains a wealth of information on a fascinating topic and should prove to be popular with both lecturers and students as well as other interested parties. Despite the complaints I have made here, on the whole I enjoyed reading this generally excellent work, Dixon has done a good job of bringing together a comfortable synthesis of what is a diverse subject containing a mass of literature and I can easily recommend it.
It contains chapters on:- Feeding behaviour and food quality (this also deals with symbionts and nitrogen economy), Host specificity and speciation, Resource tracking mechanisms 1 cyclical parthenogenesis, Resource tracking mechanisms 2 polyphenism, Resource tracking in time, Resource tracking in space, Population dynamics, Community structure and species diversity.
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The Behavioural Ecology of Ants by John H. Sudd and Nigel R. Franks
Ants are an insect group that everyone knows and many are fascinated by. Although there are only about 12 000 species world wide as individuals they are numerous in temperate climes and everywhere in the tropics. It has been estimated that 10% of the animal biomass on this planet is ants and it has been said of Brazil that its real owners are the ants.
What makes ants so successful, and what makes them so fascinating is there complicated and intricate social life. This book is written by two world class myrmecologists as a text aimed primarily at undergraduate level students and above. However it will be essential reading for all dedicated ant fans with or without a degree. I certainly read, and enjoyed, this book when it first came out as an amateur naturalist who was keeping ants in his living room, several years before I returned to full time education as a mature student to gain my degree. If you have already some idea concerning what ants are about, and want to know more then this book is an excellent place to start. Some of the concepts in chapter 1 are a little difficult to grasp at first but it is worth making the effort because understanding them is essential to understanding the intricacies of insect, and particularly ant, social life. Being a text, "The Behavioural Ecology of Ants" should, and I think does touch on, in some detail, all the main contributory factors controlling ant behaviour, drawing on examples from all around the world to illustrate the ideas and concepts expressed in the text.
"The Behavioural Ecology of Ants" contains the following chapters: Social Behaviour as a Selfish Strategy, The Phylogeny of Ants, Ant Economics, Who does What, and When, Communication, Ants as Partners, Ants Exploiting Ants, Ant Ecology. Obviously in 200 A5 pages this is not a work to compete with Holldöbler and Wilson's "The Ants", but then at 20 pounds for the Pbk it is also much more affordable. All in all this small but informative book must be an essential ingredient for all libraries in the English speaking world.
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Parasitic Wasps by Donald L.J. Quicke
Parasitic wasps, (Hymenoptera, Parasitica) are one of the largest and most diverse of all the known groups of insects. they are invaluable to man as pest control agents, though some are pests themselves and common throughout the world yet very little is known about most of them.
In this extensive work Quicke has concentrated on developmental, physiological, anatomical and molecular aspects of Parasitic Wasp biology so as to complement Godfrey's 1993 classic work "Parasitoids" which took a more evolutionary/ecological view. This book is just packed with fascinating information. Despite its obvious scientific competence, and being written for an educated audience it is easy and enjoyable to read. For this I think the author deserves a special word of praise; because when dealing with a subject which is specialist, as much of the information in this book is, it is all to easy to lose that clarity and simplicity of presentation which makes this book a real success in the field of biological communication. The Parasitica themselves are so amazing that it is hard not to give up your own speciality and take up studying them instead.
Contains chapters on; Introduction, Sex and Genetics, Life history strategy, Preimaginal development: gametogenesis to syngamy, Preimaginal development: from embryo initiation to pupa, Adult morphology and adaptations, Physiological adaptations of parasitic wasps and their hosts, Adult behaviour, Non-physiological host defence strategies, Parasitic wasp phylogeny and Taxonomy. Appendix A :- Parasitic Hymenoptera frequently studied in culture, Appendix B:- Utilisation of host groups by different families of parasitic Hymenoptera. The book also includes a useful glossary and 80 pages of references making it a valuably addition to any higher educational library
All in all a pleasant and useful addition to the world of entomological literature.
Urban Entomology :Insect and Mite pests in the Human Environment, by W. H. Robinson
Urban entomology is the most evident and perhaps the most important aspect of entomology in most people minds; dealing as it does with those insects and mites which come into our homes and their immediate surrounds. Robinson has attempted in this new and text to bring together a synopsis of the most up to date information on this entirely relevent subject. This book is an introduction to entomology with special reference to those groups of insects most often encountered by mankind. The information is provided in an easy to read style which will make the book attrasctive to many non-professionals. However the book contains a number of fundemental errors in various places which reduce its usefulness as a textbook. For instance in Chapter 8 in relationship to the origin of insect wings the author appears to confuse the Cambrian with the Carboniferous. I also think that for a textbook to promote, by usage, such sloppy terminology as referring to insect species being divided into strains, a technically botanical term, or to a scorpions sting as a 'stinger', or to the arachnid order Acari as Acarida (an obsolete term) is highly disreputable. Finally on page 132 the author states that early cockroaches foraged at night and that this 'probably reduced their exposure to birds and animals'. Technically speaking birds are animals but even more disconcerting birds did not exist in the carboniferous when cockroaches were first evolving, in fact they were not to exist for another 140 million years. I would recommend a certain caution before accepting as ' gospel ' much of the theorising in the early chapters on entomology and man's evolving relationships with insects in prehistory. These errors, and others I haven't mentioned make it hard to recommend this book.
The book is divided into 4 sections. In part 1 you have a 130 page introduction to the subject of ' Urban Entomology '. Chapters include; 1) Introduction, 2) Early humans and first encounters with insect pests. 3) Caves, villages and organised agriculture, 4) Early cities and urban environments, 5) Pest status of insects in the human environment, 6) The human environment and biocenoses, 7) Insect control in the human environment, 8) Insect and mite pests in the human environment. Part 2 deals specifically with ' Domestic Pests ' and includes chapters on; 9) Cockroaches, 10) Fleas, lice and mites, 11) Spiders and bugs, 12) Flour and fabric pests. Part 3 deals with ' Periodomestic Pests ' including chapters on; 13) Ants, 14) Flies, 15) Stinging Hymenoptera. Part 4 deals with ' Structural Pests ' in 2 chapters, one on ' Termites ' and the other on ' Wood infesting beetles '.
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Acoustic Behaviour of Insects : An evolutionary perspective; by W. J. Bailey
The sounds made by insects in order advertise their presence to the world, and to members of the oppressive sex in particular, is quiet and generally unobtrusive in places such as Britain, but in warmer climes it can become a stunning cacophony of sound to amaze and delight the senses. Insects use sounds to communicate far more than most of us are aware of, and in far more subtle ways than we imagine. Not only males attracting females and the reverse, but males fighting for prime territory with other males and also for detecting and communicating with predators. Advertising yourself to other members of your species is all very well but many predators can use the sounds you make to locate you, thus the evolution of sound and its usage in the insect world is diverse and fascinating. In this book Bailey has brought together a coherent account of much of the foremost thought in this field as well as supplying a sound basic introduction to the production of, usage of, and reception of sound in the insect world. The book is obviously a text book aimed at undergraduates, being well referenced throughout, and will be essential reading for all serious students of entomology, however I feel it will also be enjoyed as a resource by all interested amateurs as well.
It contains chapters or sections on:- Male spacing behaviour, Mate finding in females, Size and reproductive success, Natural and sexual selection, Acoustic strategies in aggregations, Are females attracted to choruses, Chorusing behaviour, Sound a working definition, Measuring sound, Near-field sound communication, Frequency and loudness control, Substrate vibrations, Amplifiers and baffles, Noise, Producing sound, Listening and recognising, Mechanoreceptors, Ears, Mate recognition, Signal stability, Sound patterns, Feedback control, Song gaps and species recognition in grasshoppers, Sound localisation and distance perception, Avoiding predation, The evolution of acoustic communication.
All in all this is a well written and technically robust book about a fascinating subject.
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Reproductive Behaviour of Insects : Individuals and Populations ; by Bailey, W.J. and Ridsdill-Smith, J. (Eds)
As with everything else to do with insects their reproductive behaviour is a vast, diverse and fascinating subject. Insects exhibit such a huge range of reproductive behaviours, from indirect sperm transfer in some of the simplest, through the amazing courtship, egg laying, larval care and feeding strategies of the higher insects, including such diverse habits as air breathing adults going under water to lay the eggs of their aquatic larvae, gift giving males and the male being a parasite on the female (not mentioned in this work), to the complicated interpersonal relationships of the individuals that make up a social insect colony, that any single book can only contain a small part of the wonder that nature provides. Sensibly then the authors in this work have drawn on their own considerable ranges of expertise to explain the the best of modern understanding relating to causes behind many of the observed actions. In other words, though this book contains much information concerning the specific reproductive strategies of various in species it is really a book about the '' Why ' of the observed phenomena rather than just a catalogue of behaviour. The book contains 11 chapters by world class experts on a comprehensive range of subject matter and the editors are to be congratulated on bringing together so harmoniously such a wide range of expert knowledge.
Two things I particularly enjoyed about this book were 1) the strong emphasis on evolutionary selective pressure on the individual as the driving forces behind the manifestation of these fascinating traits, and 2) the fact that though pest species get a good mention they do not totally dominate the work completely. The chapters are all well written and refer to each other whenever possible, giving the work a pleasant overall coherence.
The chapter titles are, Individual perspectives on insect reproductive behaviour, Evolution of insect mating systems: the impact of individual selectionist thinking, Mate finding: selection on sensory cues, Host location and oviposition on animals, Host location and oviposition on plants, Host location and oviposition of tephritid fruit flies, host selection in the Heliothinae, Reproduction and host selection by aphids:the importance of 'rendezvous' hosts, Oviposition and defence of the brood in social wasps, Competition in dung-breeding insects and Larval contribution to fitness in leaf-eating insects.
I have listed this as 'general' category work, and for the most part it is, however to be fair I should point out that the authors are aiming at a higher secondary/undergraduate to graduate audience, and even if you are highly interested in the subject you will need some basic understanding of evolutionary genetics to get the full benefit of several of the chapters. All in all a fascinating book, and given the overall importance of insects in this world, an essential addition to any library, particularly those of secondary schools and universities.
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Ecology and Conservation of Butterflies by A.Pullin (Eds)
This is a very nice book on a subject that is dear to many peoples heart. It is a compilation of chapters by many of the world experts in Butterfly ecology and or Conservation biology. Pleasantly, and a tribute to the editor, all the chapters are smoothly interlaced and the change from one author to another as you move through them is hardly noticeable at all. The scope of the book is broad and of necessity only a few species have been chosen as particular examples , predictably these include the Maculinea species. Also predictably the British/European scene dominates the book, at least the first half, however over all I feel the book is well balanced and will have something to offer all its readers.
The Book is divided into four parts. Part one deals with 'Monitoring Distribution and Abundance ' and functions as an enlarged introduction, it includes chapters on; Recording the changes, Interpreting the changes, Butterfly mobility and ecology and Conservation of butterfly meta populations in the fragmented British landscape. Part two deals with 'Butterflies and Land Use in Britain ' and includes chapters on; Butterflies on nature reserves in Britain, Butterfly conservation on arable farming land, Butterfly conservation within the management of grassland habitats, Woodland management and butterfly diversity and Gardens: the neglected habitat. Part three is 'Managing Endangered Species' and chapter headings include; The ecology and conservation of Papilio machaon in Britain, Ecology and conservation of Lycaena dispar: British and European perspectives, The conservation of Carterocephalus palaemon in Scotland and Managing local microclimates for the high brown fritillary, Argynnis adippe. Part four is 'European and Global Perspectives ' and consists of eight chapters including; Measuring changes in butterfly abundance in The Netherlands, Ecology and conservation of alpine Lepidoptera, Butterfly biodiversity and conservation in the Afrotropical region, Butterfly conservation in Australasia - an emerging awareness and an increasing need, and Conservation and management of butterfly diversity in North America.
It is well referenced with all the references included in a single 26 page bibliography rather than stuck at the end of each chapter, something I like very much, and usefully it contains two indices one taxonomic and the other general. Annoyingly the general index though it has the species common names all listed they all have (see... and the latin name after them) meaning you have to go to the other index. Personally I hate indices that have 'see such and such ' all over them, often in place of a single reference it seems so pointless, however it does not detract from the usefulness of this work. All in all a very interesting and enjoyable book to read.
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Imms' General Textbook of Entomology 10th Ed.
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.
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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. 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. 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.
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Monitoring Butterflies for Ecology and Conservation
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. This is the story of the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme run out of Monks wood experimental research station in England. Apart from it obvious scientific merit this book must come under the heading of 'reading for pleasure ' for anyone interested in the natural history of Britain. Though it is concerned with the population ecology of British butterflies I hope this book will be read by wildlife ecologists all over the world, and that it will then stimulate similar research around the globe. One of the messages to come out strongly from this book is that even in the most intensively studied non pest entomological fauna in the world (British butterflies) there is still an awful lot that we do not know. Another important message is that a lot of invaluable information can be collected and good science done as a result of a small amount of regular effort on a few peoples behalf, providing the effort is well thought out The butterfly monitoring scheme in the UK has, with the publication of this book set a precedent that can be imitated and therefore used to great benefit to mankind and the environment all across the world. Anybody with the slightest interest in butterfly conservation really must make this essential reading. An excellent book . Highly Recommended.
Insect Conservation Biology
Insect conservation biology is an extremely important topic in the modern world, insects make up over 60% of all living things and from the point of terrestrial ecology if we succeed in conserving the insects just about everything else will be conserved as well. Having said this, books on insect conservation are few and far between and Michael Samways text (paperback in 1995) is a welcome, and up to date addition to this literally rare species. The book attempts (with a fair degree of success) to introduce the student to all sides of what are the main 3 aspects of a large and thorny problem. Why should we conserve insects? How do we decide which insects to conserve? How do we go about conserving them? . Many of the facts contained in the book are scarey, as are most reports these days dealing with the problems of the worlds ecology. The text reflects (as it must dealing with extant information) the fact that most entomologists, like most people are concerned with the larger and more impressive insects, as the author himself asks in chapter 9 who is going to worry about a Zorapteran that may be going extinct, Zorapterans are neither common, large and impressive or colourful, nor are they a pest, very little is known about them. It is unfortunately not a terribly easy book to read and I feel that many casually interested readers whose minds would benefit from the information contained within it will put it down once they get a little way into its plodding and uninspired style. Nevertheless it is a useful and valuable introduction to the topic of insect conservation for the students at whom it is aimed, and should, once read, stimulate much thought and discussion in schools if used to its best advantage.
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The Economic Importance of Insects by D. Hill
This is a strange book, and I can not help wondering how it got published at all. Firstly it is mis-named, it contains very little information on the actual monetary costs associated with various insect species, it is actually, as the author explains, "An Introduction to Applied Entomology". However it is not a good one, it contains very little information not already available in a decent entomology text book, and for what it costs, woefully little information on the ecology/life history strategies of the pest species it lists. It is poorly organised, sacrificing text to large B/W images, neither is it up to date or truly global as the blurb on the back cover claims. A few examples will suffice. For Collembola he claims 1 500 species in 11 families when the truth is 6 000 to 8 000 species in 18 to 22 families (Gullan and Cranston 1994, Hopkins 1997. One third of a page is devoted to a B/W image of a Death's Head Hawk Moth, which he claims was once a serious pest of potatoes in the UK (something for which at the moment I can find no supporting evidence), while Solenopsis invicta an invasive ant in Southern USA with over 1 000 papers published on it and an estimated economic cost of $300 million US a year in Texas alone is not mentioned at all. Further to this, though the Vespa wasps are included no mention is made of their status as introduce pests in Australia or of the associated changes in life history strategy (New 1994). All in all this book in my opinion is not worth the cost or even near it, NOT recommended.
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