Friday, 23 July 2021

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

If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world's ecosystems would collapse.
Sir David Attenborough

     If I were living in Britain this excellent field guide would have a permanent place in my car so as to be handy at all times. I have no doubt that it would quickly become dog-eared and dirty, sullied and stained, but well used and highly valued.
     It is an absolutely first rate guide by any standard.
     Let me first of all give a shoutout to the author, Paul D. Brock. Brock is a renowned entomologist and a scientific associate at the Natural History Museum, London. (If ever you visit London allow a couple of days for this museum). He is the author of many books about insects and has had the supreme honour, for a naturalist, of having several species named after him.
     There is a brief, but adequate introduction, to insects, with all of the salient details one needs to know, including tips on how to photograph these ubiquitous, but often elusive creatures. An excellent glossary is of great help.
     If your primary interest is in birds or mammals you will be struck by the fact of the many stages insects go through to become an adult. Once a bird's egg hatches, a bird is a bird, some precocial species even being perfect little replicas of their parents, and many mammals, large herbivores being classic examples, are born ready to run. Not so with an insect. A butterfly goes from egg to caterpillar, and even then through several instars, to a chrysalis, before emerging as an adult insect. A caterpillar bears no resemblance at all to the butterfly it is going to become. Caddisflies and mayflies begin their lives underwater, wasp larvae feed on the paralyzed bodies of other insects - early stages of development provide few clues as to the adult form.
     But surely, that is part of the fun of learning about invertebrates. For me, my initial interest in insects was trying to identify the species that comprised food for birds. Be warned, once the fascination begins, there is no end to it!
     From page 34 onwards every order of insects found in Britain, and all the families are covered in exquisite detail with an incredible array of coloured photographs, illustrations and maps. It is to be remembered that many of these organisms, especially the intermediate stages, are extremely difficult to photograph, and it is a testament to the dogged determination of Paul Brock, and the many other photographers who permitted their pictures to be included, that we have such detailed and complete coverage. 
     This guide will serve you as well as any that I can think of. It will be an invaluable tool in furthering your interest in, and knowledge of, the creatures who form the underpinnings of our very existence, and you will be much the richer for owning it.

Britain's Insects - Princeton University Press
Author: Paul D. Brock
US$32.50, £25.00 - ISBN: 9780691179278
Published: USA 13 July 2021
                UK 8 June 2021
608 pages - 2,600 colour photographs, 1476 colour illustrations
5.87 x 8.25 inches (14.675 x 20.625 cm)   


  1. I am glad you are now promoting a book about my homeland! I never cease to be astonished over the variety of insects to be found. Thanks for another great review. But into what category would you put Boris Johnson? Have a great day, hugs, Valerie

    1. Boris Johnson would be a Hair-challenged Stink Bug! We would have to start a new family, however, for organisms not known to achieve any useful purpose.

  2. Hari OM
    LOL I like your classification for the bloke in Westminster - and love the look of this book... YAM xx

  3. Buenas tardes amigo David, impresionante reseña la que nos presentas hoy de ese gran profesional Paul Brock.
    Impresionante fotografía de portada en tu blog, una preciosa imagen de Miriam, todas mis felicitaciones.
    Un fuerte abrazo amigo y tocayo David, os deseo un buen fin de semana.

  4. The quote by Sir David Attenborough is so true. So very, very true.
    Love your classification of BJ - a description which fits many of our politicians too.
    What a wonderful book to read, to reread, and to enjoy. And then to reread some more.

  5. I might very well go for this one, David. Paul D. Brock's book "Insects of the New Forest and surrounding areas" (314 pages and well-illustrated) accompanied me on my recent visit to the New Forest - a great book too! Thank you for this informative review.

    1. I will look forward to reading about your visit to the New Forest, Richard.

  6. It is very sad that this is true.
    In my garden I have created many oases for insects and it is wonderful to watch them.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. I'm sure it's a very nice and helpful guide, David.
    Tell Miriam that the new header is very beautiful.

  8. It's always amazing to me that all of these have been documented! And I, too, like your classification for Mr. BJ.

  9. Many thanks for this review.

    All the best Jan

  10. Wonderful post. I so enjoyed and thanks for the recommendation.

  11. I'm so glad you range broadly in your reviews. I'm passing this one on to some British friends.

  12. These valuable critters are under-appreciated but I think the general public is slowly becoming more aware of their importance. Books like this field guide can help.

  13. Beautiful bird in the header photo - love it.
    Seems a good book to have and one that might get a bit tattered which means it's a loved book.

  14. Just the book I need! I've been struggling on with an inadequate insect book for far too long. Thanks, David.

  15. Hello David

    Your reviews are always great. If only people would learn that insects are very important.
    Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend. PS, thank you for the comment and visit.

  16. I’d really like to read this

  17. Sounds like an incredible book. I enjoy insects too and do you know of such a book for Canadian insects or maybe Ontario's?

    1. Hi Jocelyn: I am not aware of a book devoted the to insects of Canada. I have three books that I use for Ontario, and I will cite them below. I have numerous other references that cover all of North America, and technical aspects of classification and taxonomy, and if you wish I can pass those titles along too. Just let me know.

      Garden Bugs of Ontario, Foster, Fry, Macaulay, Lone Pine Publishing (2008)
      The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park, Jones, Kingsley, Burke and Holder, Algonquin Field Guide Series (2013) - an excellent reference that covers most species found in Ontario.
      Butterflies of Ontario, Hall, Jones, Guidotti and Hubley, ROM Science Publications (2014)

    2. You are quite a resource yourself, David. I have made note of these titles to check out. Thank you very much!

  18. Even though I do not come across many insects, I would be interested to find out from this book about the insects I see in my little garden. Have a wonderful weekend.

  19. Un guide sans doute très intéressant. Les insectes sont fascinants.
    Bon weekend

  20. Nice review, David. I like your new bird header, a very colourful fellow.

  21. Me encantaría tenerlo, algún insecto seguro que también lo hay en España. Abrazos.

  22. How are you, estimado David
    good evening!
    of every four animals in nature, three are insects...
    so it is estimated that for every human being there are 200 million insects...
    we are surrounded by them!
    I myself am mistaken for an insect and they want to hunt me, can you believe it?
    I have to be very careful when go for a walk with my friends the San Antonio cows, the cricket, the bee and the dragonflies, oh please..! I have taken every scare .. !! 🙄🤦🏻

    Dear friend, seriously speaking, this is a great recommendation
    that I really appreciate,
    insects are great creatures.
    I wish you a beautiful night on a pleasant sunday 🌺🌹🦋🐛🐝🐞

  23. Here we are dealing with a mystery bird disease and I would not be surprised if our war against insects turned out to be the cause.

  24. First: Beautiful header.
    But... I´m so glad Ingo did not tell me of all the insects you´re confronted with in Australia. If I´d known I´d never visited. Some landed so softly on your back you didn´t feel it. When they reached your skin they... dunno, bit or whatever and when you grabbed them they felt like coffee beans. The first 30 I screamed my head off but then you just grab and throw. The mossies in the North are that big it feels like syringe. I could go on and on, I´d probably take this book to throw after them ;-)
    And yet. We returned so often.

    I prefer the very clever cute magpies.
    As you are a bird-lover, do you know the book "Penguin Bloom - The odd little bird who saved a family" by Cameron Bloom & Bradley Trevor Greive?

    1. I am not familiar with this work, Iris. I will see if the local library has it.

  25. A wonderful account of the book, very interesting too.
    Greetings Irma

  26. Apasionante este libro, una guía magnífica para aprender de los insectos que seguro que alguno también se pueden ver en España.
    Muchos besos y abrazos.

  27. He was/is right mr. Attenborough.

  28. Lol on Valerie's comment/question.

    Okay, in all seriousness tho, sounds like a fascination guide to the world of insects.
    Enjoyed your post, and photos. Thanks for linking up this week at IRBB.