I know I have talked before about my “weed bible” Weeds of the Northeast (which actually covers everything East of the Mississippi I’m sure). And yes, there are very good online guides to both weeds and insects.
But to me, if I don’t exactly know what I’m looking for, there’s nothing quite like having a book–paper pages–to flip through. Not only might I find the actual insect (or weed) I’m seeking out, but I might see something else I didn’t know I had, or might have been wondering about (the “oh, that’s what that is” kind of moment we’ve all had). As much as I love the computer, I rarely get that online.
So when I saw Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs by Whitney Cranshaw in the window of our local Barnes and Noble a few summers back, I knew I had to have it (and no, I get nothing for that plug of B+N, sadly).
My instincts were right on, of course. It has become my “bug bible.” Of course it doesn’t have everything–I still can’t find that darn thing eating my coneflowers but I have been able to narrow it down to the taxonomic family at least with the help of this book.
And of course one of the nice things it does have is caterpillars so that I can know the good guys from the bad guys. Nothing worse than squishing a potential butterfly.
The book is not for the squeamish because the photos are up close and in color of all the lovely bugs in the backyard (notice the feet of the caterpillar hugging the stem of the plant in the cover shot, for example). But if you really do want to get to know what’s in the backyard–and whether it is friend or foe (and really, as gardeners, shouldn’t we want to know, before we obliterate by whatever means we choose? Bugs can be some of our best allies in the garden)–this is definitely the book for you!