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Insect Field Guides - Helping You to Help Yourself

When possible, we take a look at field guides available to the casual observer and rate them in four key categories. Comments are supplied based on our opinions utilizing the field guide as an everyday user. The following key is used to visually rate each book. The different bug icons have no bearing on each rating as they simply serve an aesthetic purpose.

How do you know a good field guide from a poor one? Since no single field guide seems to be perfect, arm your self with a few different field guides before you head out. This way, where one falls short, the other might pick up the slack and deliver you the information that you're looking for.




Insect Field Guides

Arthur V. Evans

Chanticleer Press, Incorporated,

Height: 7.75"
Width: 4.75"
Thickness: 1.25"

National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America

On par with the National Audubon Society field guide, this guide gives you some pretty impressive shots in full color for each and every insect detailed throughout the book.
Gives you what you want to know in short snippets. Look elsewhere for in-depth coverage but we particularly enjoy it for its johnny-on-the-spot breakdown that includes habits, range and size.
We love this guide above all the others simply for its no-nonsense layout. It's fundamental to the core and doesn't try to confuse the user. Pages are color coded which helps in quickly finding your spot.
Fits in one hand but not in your pocket. It's a tad bit larger than the Audubon one detailed below we particularly enjoyed but this field guide is worth hauling around in your backpack for the wealth of information it covers.

This field guide has become our undisputed favorite. It's relatively new (2007 publishing year!) and comes complete with a waterproof cover(!). Not only does this guide cover the basic and exotic North American bugs but it also covers millipedes, centipedes and ticks in equal detail complete with imagery. Not only that but the guide also has great articles on how to use the guide, building your own aquarium-type ecosystem for any bugs you catch and breaks down the families of bugs with a history on each. Collecting and identification tactics are all covered in this neat little find. A MUST BUY for any insect identification freak. Our ONLY caveat on this guide is the fact that the binding is not very friendly to constant usage, meaning that over time, your guide will really start to show some wear and tear along the spine. If anything, buy two so you can use one in the field and keep one in pristine condition at home.

UPDATE 8/8/2007: Because this field guide is not ring bound, be prepared to wear the binding down if you're using it quite a bit and opening the book to the extremes. Maybe best to keep a field copy to wear down and a home library copy.



Insect Field Guides

Milne & Milne

Alfred A. Knopf, Incorporated,
1980, 1996

Height: 7.5"
Width: 4"
Thickness: 1.25"

National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders: North America

As good as it gets. 100% full-color photography earns this field guide its ratings bugs. Their chosen angles aren't always the best though.
Brief and concise. Each photograph is supplanted by detailed entries in the back of the book showcasing reach, habitat, colors, size and diet.
The actual setup of the guide, with photography in front and the text per insect in back takes some getting use to. Naturally, you'll be finding bugs a lot faster once you get the layout.
Nice size that fits easily in one hand. The short stubby pages require two hands to work it effectively and the thickness of the guide negates slipping it easily into a back pants pocket.
Though not perfect by any means, this Audubon guide is a recommended buy for the sheer number of insects and spiders catalogued and detailed. Photography is top notch as is the concise details. The arrangement of color plates in front and the associated text at the back of the guide takes a lot of getting use to but highly recommended for any insect buff as a solid primary source of information. Perhaps it covers too many of the more exotic North American species for our taste.


Insect Field Guides

Eric R. Eaton & Kenn Kaufman

Hillstar Editions L.C., 2007

Height: 7.75"
Width: 4.75"
Thickness: 1"

Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America

Full-color photography cropped from other photos. Photos are then arranged on the same page with other like species. We don't particularly like the layout this way.
Very little useful information. Details are kept brief, most likely limited to the page size allotted per grouping of species. Sections are color coded however.
Not great but at the same time not terrible. We prefer the Audubon method better to what this guide allows but you could do worse.
About the same size as the Audubon guide review above but wider. Thickness is less however btu still not applicable to dropping it easily into a pants pocket for travel.
This guide is what I'd like to call a backup to your primary guide. Since no one guide is perfect for you to have out in the field, consider this as your alternative to keep in your pack. Some images are too small to really see any identifying details and others are taken in extreme light. Over all, it covers a good amount of the basics and is pretty portable for all the information it contains.


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