Top positive review
27 people found this helpful
THE beginner's field guide on British and European Insects
on 1 September 2013
Well what can I say. After recently deciding to taking my amateur entomology (bug geek) hobby a bit more seriously, I decided to purchase a book that I could take out into the field with me. I shopped around and read a lot of reviews and in the end decided on Chinery - mainly because it was the most recent (2012). And I am glad I did, because I was not disappointed.
The book begins with an explanation of distributions, insect families and how to identify them and each insect is represented by a clear and high detailed painting (not photograph!). Whist I originally saw this as a downside and thus considered Chinery and Gibbons, Insect (Collins Gem), I preserved with this title through sheer weight of reviews. This I feel was the correct decision, as since having flicked through the Collins Gem title I found that with photographs the guide is held hostage to the print and photo quality, light and composition of the photo when trying to identify a subject, issue which are not present with the paintings in this title. On the opposite page of the photos are the corresponding names (Common (where available) followed by the scientific (or latin) name), information of distribution, habitat, and seasonal availability, usually followed by a piece of interesting behavioural trivia.
However, a couple of things should be noted:
1. The butterfly, moth section and beetle section make up a vary large part of this book (understandably due to genus size and 'laymen' interest in these groups), yet not all caterpillars are shown for all moth and butterfly species and no pupae are shown whatsoever. Therefore, if your interest is primarily in these species you may wish to consider Lewington's Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland or Townsend and Waring's Concise Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland instead. Also the picture of the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) whilst taking pride of place on the front cover, is frustratingly pictured inside the book at rest with it's wing closed (again not a massive problem)
2. The True Bug (hemiptera) section whilst very helpful, only shows adult markings for shield and squash bugs. Whilst this is helpful to a degree, it can make the identification for nymphs problematic as their markings can differ from adults. Moreover, whilst the book list the major grasshopper species, their markings and colour forms in the description it only displays one colour form in the illustrations. Again this could be frustrating to layperson who is seeking to identify a specie primarily from the images.
Overall this book has been a fantastic resource and has not only allowed me to identify countless butterflies, dragonflies, water insects, beetles and more, it even held its own in a recent summer trip to the Ukraine. Covering Western Europe as well (whatever this means, as the book does not define it), the book also contains an excellent section the praying mantis species found on the continent as an added bonus!
All in all I wouldn't hesitate to by this book for anyone looking to get out and do some insect fancying. A must buy, I don't think you'll find a more comprehensive and yet accessible book on insects of this quality. However, if you are looking for a more in depth guide to a specific family or genus I would suggest you look elsewhere. Chinery's book is more of an overview to take into the field, than an exhaustive compendium.