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Thursday, 21 January 2021

Book Review - Britain's Spiders - Princeton University Press (WILDGuides)

 

     
     Welcome to the second edition of a spider magnum opus!
     This is an impressive work, coming in at just under 500 pages of highly informative text, with a sensational collection of photographs, unparalleled in any prior work on arachnids. It is called a field guide, and is all of that, but goes much beyond the parameters of a conventional guide aimed only at field ID.
     The first 135 pages provide detailed notes on every salient spider fact - anatomy, life style, habitat, classification, appearance, frequency, conservation, and so on, before a page of species identification appears.
     I remember well, in times past, experiencing frustration at being unable to narrow down the identification of a spider to the species level, feeling somehow inadequate. I was relieved when I learned that I was doing well to get the family correct and extraordinarily well to pinpoint the genus. Many, many species, the majority in fact, may only be identified under a microscope by detailed examination of the genitalia. This point is made abundantly clear right from the outset, in the first page of the introduction.
      All of the preliminary information pertains to spiders the world over. The book is nominally devoted to the arachnids of Britain, but spiders with eight eyes in a row, for example, are anatomically the same whether in Britain, France or the Middle East, and you will benefit from a through study of the text.
     An excellent glossary occupies six pages and is of immense help in explaining technical terms, many of which are probably unfamiliar to any but a skilled entomologist specializing in spiders.
     When the book does get into the individual species section, the wealth of information and the photographs are comprehensive and stunning. A range map is included and notes on distribution/status. By carefully following tips on habitat and a description of the spider, chances for correct identification are measurably improved. 
     Important information is given concerning legislation and conservation, and a complete summary of all British spiders is provided with their status designation. Links to further reading and useful internet sites enable the reader to pursue other sources to expand their spider knowledge.
     The role of the British Arachnology Society is acknowledged; indeed their logo appears on the bottom right corner of the front cover.
     In the realm of texts about invertebrates, this book rises to a whole new level, combining science and field identification in ways made possible by digital photography, sophisticated scientific equipment, and the combined breadth of knowledge of three notable authors.

Britain's Spiders, A field guide - Princeton University Press (WILDGuides)
Authors: Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford and Helen Smith
Paperback - US$32.50 - £25 - ISBN 9780691204741
Published: 3 November 2020
496 pages - 700+ colour photographs - 5.88" x 8.25"  


55 comments:

  1. I know someone who'd be recoiling at that image. She's terrified of spiders.

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    1. For some people, fortunately few in number, arachnophobia can be a serious, debilitating condition.

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  2. I know there are many who don't like spiders.

    I don't mind them, and for some reason I always think of the nursery rhyme 'Incy Wincy Spider'.
    Perhaps as I have fond memories of nursery rhyme time with my dear mother, and later with our children and grandchildren singing this song, has resulted in me not minding them :)

    Sounds a good book.

    All the best Jan

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  3. My son is an entomologist, starting for a devotion to all things insects. He had two tarantulas during high school and college. When he moved to Illinois for grad. school, he left them with us. Sergio Bustamante and Martha Rose visited my classroom, along with some moulting.

    I wouldn't run screaming.

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    1. Gotta love a boy who leaves you spiders - much less trouble than a dog to take care of.

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  4. Hari OM
    I am almost as interested in spiders as I am in gulls! Most folk in the UK have no idea that there are well over 600 different kinds of them here - or that some dozen of them are the bitey kind!!! YAM xx

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    1. Most spiders are incapable of piercing human skin. For the most part those that do cause but minor irritation. That's not true for certain species in other parts of the world, however.

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  5. Can I just say I read almost all this post even though I'm terrified of these critters ~ mostly out of respect and curiosity! I enjoy hearing and seeing what other people find fascinating ~ so I'm glad you enjoyed this informative read! Blessings to you ~ Karen

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    1. Thank you for that, Karen. I appreciate your dedication.

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  6. Me encantaría tenerlo. Abrazos.

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  7. I am endlessly fascinated and awed by spiders.
    And would undoubtedly get a great deal from this book - including some envy for spiders I will not see for myself.

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    1. I have great memories of Huntsman Spiders in Australia. They seemed to be especially abundant in Tasmania, or perhaps I was just more observant there.

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    2. Did you ever see any of our Peacock spiders? Tiny bejewelled beauties. I have only seen them in captivity and would love to see them in the field.

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    3. Unfortunately no. If you see any, Sue, be sure to take pictures.

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    4. You can be sure that I will. Lots and lots of pictures.

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  8. I'm not terribly enamoured with spiders generally, although they are fascinating. Last summer a big spider (called Spidey) lived in a web between a large geranium and the deck railing, and I fed him dead flies whenever I found one. He (or possibly she) loved it!

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  9. Ugh, spiders fill me with a sort of fascinated horror. At least I don't normally scream at them anymore :)

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  10. Spiders are difficult to photograph. The cover is magnificent!

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  11. I'm used to have a lot of spiders in the garden David. I don't mind them, and I have many of them in my cellar too. My daughter is so afraid of spiders, and no matter what I tell her she is still very frightened about them. I don't blame her, because it's the most commond fear beside fear of snakes.

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  12. Thanks for another good book review. I am not a lover of spiders, although they are fascinating. Have a great, take care, hugs to you and Miriam, Valerie

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  13. J'aime bien les araignées, elles sont mignonnes et certaines ont de belles couleurs comme les papillons.
    Le livre doit être sympa.
    Bonne journée

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  14. This one is already on my to buy list, we have a large amount of spiders just in our garden alone and I can only recognise a few!

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  15. Hi David - the way the book has been set out for the 21st ... with the extra informative details added for a clearer understanding today. I'd love to read the first part ... perhaps I can sneak a glance at some stage once we're released and I can check it out in a bookshop.

    At EC's comment ... I'd love to see a Peacock Spider ... thankfully I enjoy seeing spiders around ... they certainly keep the flies away ... stay warm - Hilary

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  16. For once, David, I have beaten you to it - or rather, Lindsay has! She gave me this excellent book as a Christmas present. Hopefully, I'll now be able to ID those I find in the garden, and elsewhere - if I ever get elsewhere!

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    1. Under normal conditions I review the books prior to publication, but PUP's distribution system seems to have gone awry during the pandemic and recently I received seven books at the same time, still missing two of the titles they said they would be sending.

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  17. Omg must be super interesting! <3
    . www.pimentamaisdoce.blogspot.com

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  18. This was a fascinating read. I am not sure it's a subject I would choose to explore, but the book sounds fascinating, regardless.

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  19. Wow! This book sounds like it raises the bar!

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  20. Hello David, I have several books on spiders, and have become even more interested in the insect word since I started photographing them. This book seems like a good buy.

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    1. Great stuff, Sonjia. It is a world of boundless fascination.

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  21. I have to be honest and say that a field guide to spiders would not be on my book list ... but your excellent review of it is tempting me.

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  22. I could stand to learn more about spiders. I also have always wondered about why so many people have a deep fear of them.

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  23. Hi friend David,
    I love nature and its animals but there is an animal that I am afraid of and that are spiders !!!!! I still have a trauma from childhood spiders but I know they are useful creatures. They let me do the useful work near the neighbors hahahahahaha ...
    Is everything okay with you and Miriam ??
    A big kiss xo

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  24. Un gran libro de campo amigo David, aunque mi fuerte no son las arañas, siempre me han parecido insectos de un gran atractivo y sumamente perfeccionistas.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David y que tengas un precioso fin de semana en compañía de tu inestimable compañera Miriam. ¡Cuidaros mucho!

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  25. I've always been fascinated by spiders and when I lived in New Zealand there were some splendid ones. I always want to try and identify them which can be a mammoth task. I didn't see anyone take a punt at the spider on the book cover. Being British spiders I'd have expected the distinctive garden spider but it's not.

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    1. Something in the genus Argiope would be my guess, Graham, but I will try to identify down to the species and post it here if I succeed.

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    2. Hello again Graham: I am fairly confident that it is an orb-weaving spider in the family Araneidae, and probably a male Argiope bruennichi. There was a time when the cover photograph would have been identified in the first page or two, but this no longer seems to be the case. If someone more proficient with spider ID than I would like to confirm or correct I would be happy to have them weigh in.

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    3. Thank you, David, I hadn't realised the massive difference between the male and female wasp spider because it's the female who gets all the 'publicity' and gives the name to the spider. For some reason I can't find my more dedicated UK spider book and most general books only cover the most 'popular' ones. It begs the question as to why we have this desire to know the name of something we will never have to be concerned about.

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    4. Creo que si es Argiope Bruennichi macho, la hembra es más grande. Por aquí es bastante común. Besos.

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  26. WOW. Libro impresionante querido amigo. Me encantan las arañas, son increíbles. Una araña como esta de jardín es capaz de tejer una enorme tela en una hora. Muchas gracias. Cuidaros mucho y un enorme abrazo para ti y para Miriam.

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  27. Your review is great, but spiders? Noooooooo!

    Love,
    Janie

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  28. I would love to buy such a book David. Perhaps it is in translation or will appear in Russian soon. It is especially interesting to see the photos. There are several species of spiders living in my garden, they especially like to make a nest in a tuja. There, in July, small spiders appear and soon scatter. I also always praise spiders for eating flies.

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  29. I'm fascinated by our jumping spiders, but I'm most taken with the Peacock spiders that were mentioned above. In fact, I wrote about them, and about a man truly dedicated to them, in a post titled "Spiderpalooza!" I think you'll enjoy it.

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    1. Great article, Linda. Thanks for sharing. I will make it part of my mission to find a peacock spider or two if ever I am able to get back to Australia. Damn this pandemic!

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  30. I think I have photographed the critter on the front side. Fascinating, and useful they are.

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  31. They are fascinating creatures and I’m one of those people who safely escort them out of the house rather than squish them. I’ve seen a lot of different ones and more interesting ones since I moved to the South.

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  32. Hello David,
    I enjoy your header photo every time I pull up your blog, It is a beautiful bird.
    Great book review! Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your weekend! PS, thank you for the comment.

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  33. I don't know much about spiders but your header photo is spectacular!!

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  34. I know spiders serve a useful purpose, but... :-(

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  35. This is a book I should probably have but I am inclined to keep well clear of spiders except in desperate need of photos!! Not my favourite creatures I am afraid. Keep safe Diane

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  36. The striped goslings are indeed first rate. But beautiful birds all. Thanks for your blog visit!

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