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The Titles

Insect Ecology, by Peter W. Price
Aphids on the Worlds Crops, by R.L. Blackman and V.F. Eastop

The Reviews

Aphids on the Worlds Crops: 2nd edition

by R.L. Blackman and V.F. Eastop

ISBN = 0 471 851 4
Price = £85.00
Published = 2000
Review written = 15/August/2000
466 pages
300 B/W photos

Aphids are ubiquitous, they can be found all across the world on nearly any species of seed bearing plant. Monocultures, such as those created by modern methods of growing crops, are particularly vulnerable to infestation. aphids reproduce very quickly during their apterate phase, and all farmers find their crops under attack. This is not a new idea, mankind has ben observing and fighting aphids for hundreds of years. In 1976, with the publication of the 1st edition of this volume non-taxonomists were given a universal guide to the identification of pest species. It was a valuable and much respected work, but as the authors themselves point out in their preface - the crops, the aphids, our knowledge and our methods have all evolved in the last 15 years. So it is appropriate that the authors have released this updated and much rewriten edition of that first work.

Section A is a 24 page introduction to the ecology and biology of aphids. Section B contains the keys and checklists, while section C is the species synopses. Section D is a brief look at techniques, E a list of resources, F a compilation of references and G is 300 B/W photos of slide mounted specimens to aid in identification.

The main body of the work, parts B and C deals with 281 species of crop plant and over 450 species of aphids. aphids are notoriously difficult to ID to species with certainty, or at least they were until the publication of this volume and its predecessor. By cleverly making use of the fact that only a few species of aphids actively colonise any given species of plant the authors have reduced each key to a minimum of choices by making the identification process dependant on plant species as its first step.

The book is designed for non-taxonomists to use, and it works well, I greatly appreciated the ease with which I was able to identify the few aphids ocuring on my back garden crops. This were perhaps the easiest identifications of specimens of a group I am not overly familiar with I have ever attempted.

All in all this is an excellent book, well thought out and produced and well worth its place on any ecological library's shelf.

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Insect Ecology: Third edition

by Peter W. Price

ISBN = 0 471 16184 5
Price = £80.00
Published = 1997
Review written = 30/July/1998
874 pages

This is simply an excellent book. Reading this for review purposes was pure pleasure. Peter Price is an internationally acclaimed entomologist whose great depth of knowledge and highly readable writing style has allowed him to create an incomparable text on insect ecology. Insect ecology is an immense subject but in this work it is well represented, while numerous references from other biological fields help increase its potential as a valuable educational resource and an enjoyable read.

The book is huge (nearly 900 pages) and to many people much of it will not be unknown. The original edition was first published 20 years ago (at which time I thought I was going to study big cats or raptors), however this edition has seen much in the way of updating and improving. New additions include the addition of subheadings and a number of images as well as 4 new chapters: The importance of Insect Ecology; Development of theory in Insect Ecology; Hypotheses on Plant Herbivore Interactions and Population Dynamics: Synthesis. The author claims to have aimed at advanced undergraduates, graduates and researchers, however as with many well written books dedicated and or highly interested amateurs will find much to enjoy in the work. Peter's fluent style and keen intelligence make this book an enjoyable read to all with an interest in insect ecology.

The book is exceedingly diverse and comprehensive in its scope and consists of 24 chapters divided into 4 sections. It ends with a 120 page bibliography, a taxonomic index, an author index and a subject index. Chapter Headings are: Importance of Insect Ecology; Major Components and Processes in Ecosystems; The World of Insects: Size and Scaling in Moderately Small Organisms; Development and Theory in Insect Ecology; Plant and Insect Herbivore Relationships; Hypotheses on Plant and Herbivore Interactions; Interactions Between Prey and Predator; Parasite and Host Interaction; Mutualistic associations; Pollination Ecology; Energy Flow, Nutrients, and Ecosystem Function; Demography: Population Growth and Life Tables; Life Histories and Reproductive Strategies; Behavioral Ecology; Ecological Genetics; Population Dynamics: Conceptual Aspects; Population Dynamics: Modelling; Population Dynamics: Synthesis; The Niche concept and Division of Resources; Intraspecific and Interspecific Competition; Community Development, Structure, and Organisation; Diversity and Stability; Paleoecology, Biogeography, and Biodiversity.

All in all a wonderful book filled with a wealth of fascinating information, I would highly recommend that all biology undergraduates and trainee teachers read at least the first 60 pages.
Highly Recommended

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