By Sheila Vincent, Group Program Coordinator
Occasionally we write book reviews on The Nature of Delaware blog, so since we recently added this book to our staff collection, we thought you might want to know about it.
Beetles of Eastern North America, by Arthur V. Evans, is not a field guide.
In fact, this tome, published by Princeton University Press, is beefy enough, and beautiful enough, to be the ultimate geek coffee-table book. It is comprehensive, 560-page, gorgeous, fascinating, and relentlessly technical. Take this random sample from one of the extremely thorough species accounts for example: “…Maxillary palp ornate in male, simple in female. Abdomen with six (male) or seven (female) ventrites…”. If your response to this description is “Um…..what?”, take heart. The book includes a good glossary, lots of excellent labeled illustrations and diagrams, and a dichotomous key, among many other aids to understanding. There are sections on beetle anatomy, when and where to find beetles, their behaviors and natural history, trapping, collecting, pinning…even a segment on rearing.
And of course, there are the striking, full-color photographs. Most depict living beetles in natural surroundings -on leaves, flowers, soil, wood, etc – in all their diverse, vivid glory. There is no way to do justice to these photos with mere descriptions, except to say that they actually make it possible to use the words “stunning” and “beautiful” and “beetles” in the same sentence. If you plan to use the book for specimen identification, however, you will need to have your own good photograph of the beetle in question, or ideally, have the specimen in hand.
Bottom line: Beetles of Eastern North America is a wonderful beast of a book. I learn something, and have some nerdy fun, every time I open it, whether it’s to ID a difficult specimen, answer a specific question about beetledom, randomly pick a page and start reading, or just gawk at the splendid photographs. If you know someone who is seriously into insects, this book will keep them busy and amazed for a really long time.