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Books on Insects

Good or bad, insects are here to stay with some of them attacking cacti and succulents. In order to cope with insects on your plants, you need to be able to identify the culprit before you can decide on a treatment. Here are some books that can help.

“Caterpillars in the Field and Garden” by Thomas J. Allen et al was published by Oxford University Press. Very reader friendly, this book makes it possible to identify the butterfly caterpillars found in North America. Of the 900 color photos, some are of species that have never appeared in print before. For each species, there is a distribution map, color photos, description, and natural history. In the introduction, the authors explain how to identify the caterpillars and where they can be found. There is also a diagram showing the parts of a caterpillar. A complete section is devoted to butterfly gardening along with details on raising caterpillars and conservation. Gardeners will be interested in knowing that most butterfly caterpillars don’t damage garden plants. The appendix includes a list of butterfly plants.

The revised and expanded edition of “The New York Times Book of Insects” from the Lyons Press was edited by Nicholas Wade. This features over 50 articles that have appeared in the paper. Arranged by topic, these represent a wide range of insect species from all over the world, and their activities, such as courtship, lifestyle, and defense mechanisms. These articles reveal just how adaptive these creatures can be, including caterpillars that attract ants to rid them of an enemy. The species discussed include leaf-cutter ants, fire ants, and the destructive hemlock woolly adelgid. Despite the title, this book also includes several pieces on spiders.

Thunder Bay Press has published the “Encyclopedia of Insects and Spiders” by Ron and Ken Preston-Mafham. This features over 50 kinds and countless species of insects and spiders from around the world. This in-depth guide contains all the information you’ll ever need on the subject. In a clear, concise style, the authors give complete descriptions with details on the lifestyle, natural history, distribution, and habitat for each. Gardeners will be interested in the extensive section on aphids. Beautifully illustrated in full color, this book will help you understand and appreciate the adaptability of insects and spiders. For the species that are pests, such as bedbugs, there are straight forward discussions of what you can do.

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