Garden Insects of North America

The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs

By: Whitney Cranshaw

ImageAt one time or another, all gardeners stand and contemplate a mystery insect, wondering if it is friend or foe. Sometimes only bug-chewed leaves or blemished fruit are the only evidence of a pest. Most field guides have glossy images of adult insects, but few have images of nymphs, caterpillars, eggs and actual damage. Garden Insects of North America takes this a step further and displays all of this information together in one massive volume.

ImageThe introductory chapters help the gardener identify types of damage and suggest families of creatures that might have caused it. There is even a good section on gastropods, which include slugs and snails. While they aren't insects, gardeners battle them just the same. Pest management targeted for each type of pest is discussed and preventative measures offered to minimize infestation.

The book is divided into chapters according to the type of damage the gardener associates with the insect. Leaf-chewers are grouped together, while root and bulb chewers-have their own section. Sap sucking insects, gall-makers, leafminers, stem and twig damagers and borers all have sections. Insects with similar appearance or habit are grouped together. An example would be mealybugs. They are located near the wooly aphids and soft scales. While it isn't the most conventional way of grouping insects, the regular gardener normally associates the insect with the part of the plant where they find it. Each insect is classed by its scientific name but the book offers common names where applicable. Gardeners will recognize names such as Japanese Beetles, Red-legged Grasshoppers and Eastern Tent Caterpillars, so the book is user-friendly for the novice.

ImageI especially like the color plates where the adult, nymph, eggs and damage are grouped together. It gives the reader a clearer understanding of the life-cycle and how they are all connected. When the information is presented in this manner, it is quite enlightening.

There is a huge section devoted to aphids and their kin. It is astounding how many species there are of this troublesome pest.

ImageFinally, the book concludes with a chapter on beneficial arthropods. The sections are arranged exactly like the ones on the pests. Color plates with adults, nymphs and eggs give the reader an excellent understanding of each life cycle. Habits, distribution and prey are listed in an orderly manner. Some insects are ‘double-agents'. The larvae might be destructive while the adults are pollinators or predatory. The Tomato Hornworm is a good example. While it can lay waste to a vegetable patch, the lovely sphinx moth adult pollinates many night-blooming flowers.

I highly recommend this book for the hobbyist or serious gardener. It is basic enough for the newbie, but with plenty of in-depth information for the seasoned expert. Garden Insects of North America is packed full of relevant and helpful information for all.

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