Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Book Review - Gardening Insects of North America (Second Edition) - Princeton University Press

      The sheer number and variety of pests in your garden staggers the imagination. Some are fairly benign but others can cause complete loss of your flowers, vegetables, fruits and shrubs, rendering all of your hard work for nought.

      With over 1,300 full colour photographs Gardening Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw and David Shetlar covers every creature you are likely to encounter. The illustrations are stunning, showing the insects (often in adult and larval stages) in great detail, with a succinct summary of their behaviour, appearance, the threat they pose and the conditions they require to ensure survival for them - which means problems for you!
     I cannot emphasize too forcefully the quality of the images and their portrayal of the complex successional stages in the life of these insects, (a vital aid in identification), and other problem organisms such as slugs and snails, for example. The text has been written with the gardener in mind, but the illustrations and the accompanying text would be fine support material for any undergraduate course in entomology. 
     Not everything in the book is cause for dismay for there is a fine treatment of nature's pollinators which are often the natural enemies of organisms we view as pests. Think of the relationship between Lady Beetles and Aphids, for example. Wasps, hornets and yellowjackets are fearsome predators of many other insects.
     The organization of the book makes it a supremely useful tool for a gardener, especially one who is not familiar with entomological niceties and has little understanding of the relationship between organisms. It is organized to identify where certain types of insects are most frequently found - on leaves, or stems for example, perhaps infecting the roots, so you can go to the section that deals with issues at that locus, without having to pore through pages and pages of pictures of insects trying to nail down what you have seen on your plants. For example, there is a section devoted to "Beetles that Develop in Stems of Herbaceous Plants," very useful indeed if you have such a problem, and you can go straight to the source, without any prior knowledge of which insects might be causing you distress. Have issues with tent caterpillars? Go to the section entitled "Caterpillars that Produce Large Silken Shelters and Tents." Sections such as these are featured throughout the entire book.

     The fundamental principle behind this work is that is constructed with the practical gardener in mind and in that aim it has succeeded majestically. It is meant to be a book that is used, not a book to sit on the shelf.
     At 704 pages in length this is a monumental work which will soon be well thumbed as you use it as your daily invaluable reference. I recommend it highly.

Publication date: 20 December 2017     Price: US$35.00, £27.95



  1. Hola David, me encantan el mundo de los insectos y este libro parece muy bueno, muchas gracias por compartirlo. Un abrazo.

  2. That is my kind of book!! I love being able to identify what I spot in the garden or out and about and find out more information. I'm sure you have scarier looking insects than us here in the UK though!!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Very true. The illustrations are very crisp and clear.