Friday, June 1, 2007

Excited about identifying Garden Insects!

Last weekend I bought a new book called "Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs".

It is by Whitney Cranshaw and has 656 pages of useful pictures and descriptions of the insects you are likely to encounter in your gardens. It shows every stage of the bugs as well as what kind of damage the cause to plants so you can figure out what insect you are dealing with even without seeing the insect. It also tells which ones are beneficial insects in the garden. That is something I have always been interested in. One of my posts last year on this blog was called Garden Insects: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly where my daughter and I set out one August afternoon to find and photograph every kind of bug we could find in the tomato garden. It was astonishing how many we found and how many of them were actually good for the garden!

The coolest insect we found was the Tomato Hornworm. It is bad for the garden, but attached to it was hundreds of Braconid Wasps, which are good for the garden because they kill the Tomato Hornworm and many other harmful worms and caterpillars. I wrote a whole post entitled Tomato Hornworm or Space Alien which described this and also showed it in a photo montage. The Tomato Hornworm does look like a space alien to me. So does the Caterpillar on the cover of my new book! It is a Cecropia moth Caterpillar feeding on an Ohio Buckeye leaf. That isn't very far from where I live! I hope to have some photos like that in the near future to show you. With the help of this book, I will also be able to identify the bugs we find and be able to tell you things about them.

Until then, If you are interested in learning more about garden insects or about Entomology, I recommend a blog called Bugs For Thugs. It is written by a professional Entomologist and is full of great photos and information. Kelley even has an "Ask an Entomologist" section with Q&As about insects that gardeners have encountered. The whole site is filled with great bug photos if you are in to that like I am.

Speaking of bug photos, I have one more site to recommend. Mark Plonsky has a photo blog with a great section on Insect Photos. I don't know how he does it, but his bugs actually look beautiful - not creepy. His use of color and macro lenses is amazing

If I can take insect photos half as good as Mark and know how to identify garden insects 10% as good as Kelley, I will be happy. I guess I better get reading my new Garden Insects of North America book!



Holy Cow!

I clicked on the link to the Tomato Hornworm and it is indeed a very cool looking insect. I haven't seen them in my tomato plants yet, but I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them.
The book looks very interesting, and I might get myself a copy. Thanks for posting about it.

~ Ellen


Another book you might consider is Flies in the Face of Fashion, Mites Make Right, and Other BUGdacious Tales by Tom Turpin. It has a lot of "fun facts" about different insects. I think it is great you are teaching your kids about bugs, too.

Yolanda Elizabet

Sounds like a great read that new book of yours. There is still a lot that I have to learn about the insects in my garden so I'll check out the bookstore and see what they have on bugs in this neck of the woods. ;-)

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