Crowood Press

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The Titles


The Natural History of Insects by Rod and Ken Preston-Mafham.
The Natural History of Spiders by Rod and Ken Preston-Mafham.

The Reviews

The Natural History of Insects

by Rod and Ken Preston-Mafham.

ISBN = 1 85223 964 6
Price = £16.99
Published = 1996
Review written = 7/September/1997
160 pages
This book, and its sister volume on spiders (see below), fill a much needed gap in the published literature on arthropods. Much like GEHP (only less extensive) this is an introduction to the ecology of insects, written in such a way that the information will accessible to those with little or no prior knowledge of insects, it is also the sort of book, which though it is a reference work, you can actually sit down and read. However, though it is obviously aimed at those who know little about insects many already extant amateur naturalists will find something in it to add to their store of wonder and amazement. It is also worth noting that the book is truly global in its scope and both the text and the imagery originate from all around the world.

Mostly I think this book is excellent, the text is concise and the taxonomy and science is accurate and up to date. It gives a good broad introduction to the subject of insects their diversity, habits and ecology. It is also very well illustrated with nearly 100 superb colour photos. R and K Preston-Mafham are renowned for the high quality of their wildlife photography and they have certainly included some excellent imagery in this book. My only complaint is the occasional sweeping and inaccurate statement accompanying the photographs such as those on page 78 concerning their example of sexual dimorphism in butterflies and again on page 137; "Of the numerous wasp-mimicking hoverflies (Syrphidae) in the British Isles by far the most plausible is Chrysotoxum cautum." It remains a mystery to me why two such knowledgeable Natural Historians as these brothers should include these sort of exaggerations in what is otherwise an altogether excellent book. I must stress that these are very minor complaints and I would not let them put you off reading the book.
Includes chapters on: Introduction to insects, Structure and Physiology of Insects, Classification of Insects, Sexual Behaviour, Egg-laying and Parental Behaviour, Food and Foraging Behaviour, Defence, Insect Ecology.
All in all an excellent book which should be on the shelf of every library and would look good in any house.
Highly Recommended

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The Natural History of Spiders

by Rod and Ken Preston-Mafham.

ISBN = 1 85223 966 2
Price = £16.99
Published = 1996
Review written = 7/September/1997
160 pages
Rod and Ken Preston-Mafham are well known experts in the field of wildlife photography, and, as in the sister volume to this on insects (see above), they have used their photography to excellent advantage in this work. The 100 or so colour plates are superb and it is worth having a look through this book just for the photography. As if this wasn't enough the work is also excellently written. The text is scientifically accurate and up to date. I should point out that this book does not compete with any of the other spider books I have reviewed on this site, rather, in its excellent visual presentation it complements them. As well as the colour photos the text is illustrated with numerous B/W drawings which enhance the understanding of many of the finer ecological points. It is not a book aimed primarily at the accomplished arachnologist, though they will enjoy it. It is in fact aimed at the novice or completely uniformed but interested reader to whom it will bring a wealth of knowledge and amazement about spiders, as such it will make an excellent present for any young spider lover. It is also worth noting that the book is truly global in its scope and both the text and the imagery originate from all around the world.

Includes chapters on: Introduction to spiders, Structure and Physiology of spiders, Classification of Spiders, Feeding in Spiders, Continuing the line, Egg-laying and Parental care, Defensive Behaviours, Spider Ecology, Glossary.
All in all an excellent and colourful introduction to the wonderful world of spiders, a very useful addition to any school or public library.
Highly Recommended

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