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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent beginners' guide, but not to butterflies, 24 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Insects of Britain and Western Europe (Domino Field Guide) (Paperback)
"Insects of Britain and Western Europe" is an almost classical field guide, now in a revised 2007 edition. Of course, no field guide can cover *all* species of insects. In Europe alone, there are about 100,000 insect species known to science! Chinery has selected over a thousand representative species for his field guide, and these are all superbly illustrated (in full color) by Richard Lewington, Stephen Falk and others. After looking through bird books where the poor birdies looked like Donald Duck, this comes as a pleasant surprise! The text and the color plates are on facing pages, and the vernacular names are given on the plates, provided such exist. There is also a chapter on creatures frequently confused with insects, including spiders, scorpions and woodlice.

"Insects of Britain and Western Europe" is, I assume, mostly directed at beginners. If you have a strong special interest for a particular kind of insects, say butterflies or dragonflies, there are better field guides that concentrate on these. But if you simply want an overview of what's out there, and spend your time strolling around parks, meadows or forests, this is the field guide for you. Provided that your strolling takes place in Britain and Western Europe, of course!

You wont be able to identify every individual species you come across, but you will be able to place them in the correct order, and sometimes family, with the help of this book. You will also be able to identify the most conspicuous species. Thus, this is not a book for someone who absolutely wants to identify brown lacewings, ascalaphids or fruitflies. Rather, it's a book that aids the beginner to tell the difference between bugs and beetles, or dragonflies, damselflies and antlions, or various kinds of wasps. How do I know all this? Well, let's just say that I spent my summer holidays as a child in places where insects were very abundant. I sometimes feel that I've seen all the species mentioned in Chinery's book...and been attacked by at least half of them, LOL.

There is no such thing as a perfect field guide, and even "Insects of Britain and Western Europe" have certain short-comings. First, the most well-known species often have a less prominent position on the plates than the rarer species, which may confuse the beginner. Second, the geographical area covered by the book isn't entirely clear. It seems to cover Scandinavia, Germany, the British Isles, Benelux and France, but what about Spain, Portugal and Italy? My impression is that the author has haphazardly included some species from those nations (the coolest ones?), and excluded many others. It's also unclear how far east "Western Europe" goes. Finland? Poland? East Germany? Third, the butterfly section is a real disappointment, strangely enough since butterflies are the most conspicuous insects. Many species aren't even illustrated, and others are only illustrated from one angle. Perhaps Chinery wanted to de-emphasize the well-known butterflies in favor of the other insects? Still, an otherwise excellent insect book with bad butterflies doesn't feel completely alright.

This being said, this is still the best beginners' guide to creepy critters of Britain, Scandinavia and the westernmost parts of the European landmass.

PS. Please note that this review is of the 2007 Revised Edition, the one published by Domino. Amazon sometimes places reviews of one edition at the product pages of the other editions as well, which is somewhat confusing, and not just to the beginner...
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