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)