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First-Rate New Book: Beetles of Eastern North America

Look what came out this week: Beetles of Eastern North Americaby Arthur V. Evans.

What’s a myremecologist like me doing talking about a book about beetles? Ants and beetles actually get along well.

This book has something for everyone, in fact, hard-core coleopterist to lightly-interested amateur. If you are new to beetles, it is a fabulous place to start learning. There is an extensive introduction covering anatomy, natural history, where to look for beetles, how to observe and collect them, etc. On page 52, Evans discusses how to become involved in beetle research, encouraging students and amateur naturalists to participate.

The majority of the book, however, is devoted to the beetles themselves. It covers a “goliath” number of species: 1,406 with representatives from all 115 families of Coleoptera. Even better, each species description is accompanied by a full-color photograph. Most of the photographs are of live specimens, showing the shape and posture as no drawing can. The photographs are by a number of different photographers, but care was obviously taken that the images are of uniform composition and quality. This is not a lightweight field guide, but a desk top reference you will go back to again and again.

Let’s do a test run and see if the book describes some beetles I’ve chosen at random.

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Does the book have the thistle tortoise beetle, Cassida rubiginosa? Check, listed on page 435.

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What about the lady beetle, Coleomegilla maculata? It is described on page 315.

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How about the spotted asparagus beetle, Crioceris duodecimpunctata? On page 433 there is another Crioceris species, but not this one.

How about these?

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The tumbling flower beetles were easy enough to key to family Mordellidae, even from this photograph. With only 17 species shown out of a possible 149, I couldn’t identify them any further.

I’m pretty familiar with beetle families, so it probably took only a few minutes to find the first three beetles and less than 5 minutes to key out the last one to verify my guess. The photographs add a lot of information and make searching easy for the visually-oriented. With the Glossary, family classification list in the Appendix, and a full Index, the book is a breeze to use. The page numbers are even easy to read and find.

If you are interested in beetles, then this is a must have. Are you still using those two old volumes of Dillion and Dillion? Are still thinking of bark beetles as Scolytidae? Get up to date with Beetles of Eastern North America!

Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press (June 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0691133042
ISBN-13: 978-0691133041

Disclosures:  This book was supplied by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

For Pollinator Week: Looking at the Science Behind Gardening for Pollinators

Did you know that National Pollinator Week is coming up June 16-22, 2014?

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To get prepared for Pollinator Week, let’s take a look at gardening as a way to encourage local pollinators.

How would you go about it? If you have the typical vast expanse of grass, one step could be to carve out areas from that lawn and start adding beds and borders of a diversity of flowering plants. Over time, you could continue to expand the beds until you reach the point where you can recycle the lawnmower.

Choosing which plants to include in a pollinator garden may be complicated. The best solution is to grow plants that originated in a given area or native plants.

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There are regional plant lists available, but using only native plants is not always possible. These specialized plants may not be available in local nurseries, larger natives may require more space than is available, or there may be local restrictions on landscape appearance that prohibit use of plants that look “messy.”

An alternative is to grow common landscape plants. The question then becomes which ones will suit your local pollinators.

In a recent paper in the journal Functional Ecology, Mihail Garbuzov and Francis L. W. Ratnieks quantified how attractive common landscape plants were to bees and other flying insects in a scientific way. They carried out their studies in Great Britain, but give good suggestions that could be used anywhere. For example, geraniums (flowers of the genus Pelargonium) are not a good choice for a pollinator garden no matter where you live because the flowers produce no nectar.

In this video Dr. Ratnieks explains their techniques and some of their findings:

Did you notice how many of the preferred plants were common herbs? Planting an herb garden would give a double benefit, being useful to your cooking and to pollinators.

The take home message is that spending some time getting to know the habits of your local pollinators before you plant your garden can go a long way towards helping them survive in the future.

What do you think? Are quick observations sufficient to make generalizations about pollinators or should there be more rigorous studies like this one by Garbuzov and Ratnieks?

Reference:

Garbuzov, M., Ratnieks, F. L. W. (2014), Quantifying variation among garden plants in attractiveness to bees and other flower-visiting insects. Functional Ecology, 28: 364–374.

Wordless Wednesday: Bee Sticking Its Tongue Out

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New TED Talk by Deborah Gordon

Have you seen ant researcher Deborah Gordon’s newest TED talk?

She mentions the Ants in Space project, as well as results from her 28 years studying a group of harvester ants in the Southwest.

Dr. Gordon proposes some interesting connections between what we can learn from ants and other fields of research. What do you think?