Garden Insects of
North America by Whitney Cranshaw (Princeton University Press, 656 pages,
by Susan Mulvihill
I've been searching a long time for a good reference book on
insects and think I've finally found it. Even though "Garden Insects of
North America" has been around for a few years, it's a great resource for
Chapter One covers insect classifications, information about
metamorphosis, hexapod orders (insects with 3 main body segments, 3 pairs of
legs on the thorax and a pair of antennae), and a discussion of the different
life stages of insects. The author even covers both excreted and secreted
products of insects to help with ID and details the types of damage to leaves
and fruit with many useful photos. Chapter Two contains a helpful discussion on
how to manage different types of insect pests.
Chock full of detailed photos, this book is well-organized
based on what each insect in question does for a living.
There are chapters on leaf chewers; leaf miners; flower,
fruit and seed feeders; sap suckers; gall makers; stem and twig damagers; trunk
and branch borers; root, tuber and bulb feeders; and beneficial garden
arthropods. That seems like a great way to narrow down the type of insect
you're dealing with.
Most of the insect books I've seen group insects together by
the family they belong to. I've found them to be difficult and frustrating to
use because I'm often unsure just which family to go to. What a difference
"Garden Insects" makes in this regard!
The information on each insect includes host plants, the
type of damage it causes, the distribution so you know if it's an insect common
to this region, and a description of their appearance, life history and habits.
The photographs are excellent. They show close-ups of each insect and what the
damage they do looks like.
Now let's say you find an insect in your garden and you
don't know what kind of damage it can do (if any). Cranshaw's got you covered.
She has compiled a 50-page appendix of host plant genera that will tell you the
types of insects you might find on each.
For example, under the genus Lycopersicon (Tomato), it lists all of the leaf chewers, fruit
chewers, sucking insects and mites that you might find on a tomato plant.
Cranshaw wraps up the book with a helpful glossary of terms.
In the index, all insects are listed by their common and Latin names for ease
in locating them.
If you've been conducting the same search for an excellent
insect reference, this is it.