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Book for European insects? (1 Viewer)

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Do you guys have an English idiom equivalent to the Czech "hunger grows with food"?

Anyhow, we have been recently expanding our reach into more and more parts of the animal kingdom - and after reasonably conquering herps, birds and mammals we began wondering about insects. But there is a lot of families, many very hard to ID in the field and I don't want to start buying books on each of them. For the Czech Republic, there is a nice feild guide to "all animals" - which quite unsurprisingly spends most of the room on insects - it is by no means exhaustive, it just shows the things you may reasonably expect to encounter AND identify, which is the only sane approach given the sheer number of species.

Is there something similar covering more of Europe at least? Preferably really focused on insects or at least invertebrates (considering that vertebrates around the entire Europe can get out of hand quickly). Or a handful of books that would together fulfill this purpose? iNaturalist is pretty good for getting people to identify things we have already seen, but knowing what we have not seen yet and whether something seen in the field is something new makes it more exciting.
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
The best for Europe in general is still the oldie Michael Chinery's fieldguide, even used in Entomology classes.

slightly newer edition here: https://www.nhbs.com/de/insects-of-britain-and-western-europe-book

The best illustrations in the book are the flies, by Steven Faulk, simply superb.
Out of print, but perhaps you can find a 2nd hand copy? If you can read German there's also an edition in that language.

Check this out, for example: https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_fr...nsects+of+Britain+and+Western+Europe&_sacat=0
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Thanks, that looks nice! Do you know what exactly is covered under "Western Europe" in the book? People usually don't refer that way to the countries I am most interested in :)
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
Thanks, that looks nice! Do you know what exactly is covered under "Western Europe" in the book? People usually don't refer that way to the countries I am most interested in :)
I'll quote from the book:
western Europe - west from a line from Finland to the northern shores of the Adriatic. Many Mediterranean species are included, bute generally not those found only in Italy or in the Iberian Peninsula.
So, for insects of Portugal for example it's rather incomplete, especially because it's in the Mediterranean countries that most insect diversity occurs. The book is good to narrow down your ID to Family level first and with some luck to genus. You can imagine that with such diversity there is no book that could cover all insect species (especially if you included the Mediterranean). For example, one of the Hymenoptera families, the Mutillidae, is represented in Europe by about 150 species, whilst there are only 3 of those illustrated in the book (those that occur further north and are more widespread). Also, many species are only identifiable by examining the genitalia or with the aid of a powerful stereomicroscope, differing in minimal features from the closest species and those are beyond the scope of this work.
If you reach genus level ID then you'll need to check for specialized literature on many cases to get the exact species (or going to Fauna Europaea website first to know what are the possible species and then go to find the original descriptions, if available online). For common and widespread species specific ID is sometimes possible with the book, and this becomes more true as you go north and west in Europe. The guide is mostly oriented to field ID, and for that it is quite functional.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Both Finland and the Adriatic sea are exactly big enough that you can draw a line between them so that the resulting area either completely does or completely doesn't cover Poland. I wonder if the authors could have chosen a worse description for people living i Poland than that :)
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
Both Finland and the Adriatic sea are exactly big enough that you can draw a line between them so that the resulting area either completely does or completely doesn't cover Poland. I wonder if the authors could have chosen a worse description for people living i Poland than that :)
:D
I know... But still there will be loads of Polish and Czech species in the book, the diversity should not be very different (you'll get most likely pretty much the same fauna as Germany for example). The big problem is for Mediterranean species.
 

aeshna5

Well-known member
Chinery's guides are very good & what I started with some decades ago. For southern Europe I do like Brock's photo guide to the Insects of Southern Europe & the Mediterranean. Obviously any book of this type only covers a selection of species so many you see will be unidentified (that goes for Chinery too). As to be expected some of the popular groups such as butterflies & dragonflies get greater coverage.
 

aeshna5

Well-known member
For orthoptera you can get species lists by country e.g. http://orthoptera.speciesfile.org/Common/editTaxon/Distribution/SearchForFauna.aspx?GeoID=11POL--- which are usually fairly accurate... but unfortunately you will then have to find a much more detailed book than Chinery (or Brock for Southern Europe) to work out how to (or if it's possible to !) ID them in the field.
For Orthoptera enthusiasts there are excellent English guides to both Greece & Italy. Also very much look forward to the forthcoming Grasshoppers of Britain & Western Europe, a photo guide due out in June. For good linguists there are other non English Orthoptera guides too in German.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I found the Chinery book used for just 32 EUR in German Amazon with shipping to Poland for 5 EUR, that's a no-brainer really (the only downside is feeling dirty from shopping through Amazon, at least it's from a 3rd party so it's somewhat better), so thanks for the suggestion, I will have it in two weeks!
 

Ficedula

velico ergo sum
I found the Chinery book used for just 32 EUR in German Amazon with shipping to Poland for 5 EUR, that's a no-brainer really (the only downside is feeling dirty from shopping through Amazon, at least it's from a 3rd party so it's somewhat better), so thanks for the suggestion, I will have it in two weeks!
Chinery (at least my edition) covers c2000 species, I cant find an authoritative figure for insect diversity in Europe, but it must be 40-50000 species, so Chinnery is covering about 5%. So it's equivalent to a book on the birds of Europe with 40-50 species included! Would you buy that book? Chinery will help you get to family and genus, but for species identification it is likely to be very unreliable. Start with Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies, Orthoptera before venturing into Diptera (my group), Coleoptera, Hymenoptera etc. Having said that anything particularly large or colourful from any group has a chance of getting identified by posting photo on-line.
 

jurek

Well-known member
But in principle, maybe only 2k out of 50k insects are identifiable in the field? Huuge groups of insects are either near-microscopic or unidentifiable in the field. It always put me off, because when I find an insect in a book, I can't know whether there are more almost identical species.

However, a friend entomologist says it is not difficult to find a new species on your own, if you look into a little researched group. But it is mostly about sitting a lot with a microscope, comparing genitals or wing veins of a large collection of museum specimens.

BTW, insects would be a good project to the data science image analysis algorithms. Insects are mostly flat, and a photo of an insect seen from above, on a contrasting background, would be rather easy to analyze for a computer algorithm. This would avoid the problem of overwhelmingly many choices.
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
Chinery (at least my edition) covers c2000 species, I cant find an authoritative figure for insect diversity in Europe, but it must be 40-50000 species, so Chinnery is covering about 5%. So it's equivalent to a book on the birds of Europe with 40-50 species included! Would you buy that book? Chinery will help you get to family and genus, but for species identification it is likely to be very unreliable. Start with Butterflies, Moths, Dragonflies, Orthoptera before venturing into Diptera (my group), Coleoptera, Hymenoptera etc. Having said that anything particularly large or colourful from any group has a chance of getting identified by posting photo on-line.
As jurek says, and I've said above, the book is oriented to field ID of conspicuous and identifiable species in the field, which is what the OP is looking for. There is no better single book, the alternative being to buy dozens (hundreds?) of little and very expensive books for each family. Your 5% figure is similar to what I said in the beginning for the Mutillidae (6%), so I think the OP is aware (actually you're repeating what I've said above). Most of that diversity you mention is out of opisska's area of interest (Poland/Czech Rep), in the Mediterranean. I think it's really not comparable to the birds situation. A parallel situation would be if 200 very similar Phylloscopus species existed in Europe, and the author had chosen to include only the 6 or 7 most easily identifiable and widespread species, leaving aside the very restricted endemics and those that you could ID only by killing the bird. It's a bit apples to oranges.
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
Yeah, I am completely fine with not getting species identification, particularly if there is no visible difference between the species at all. To be honest, I am even playing the species game with some genera of birds only because there is a competition around it, I don't think I would be particularly interested in distinguishing every warbler otherwise :) I am generally lazy, so this really seems to be the kind of a book for me.
 

Ficedula

velico ergo sum
As jurek says, and I've said above, the book is oriented to field ID of conspicuous and identifiable species in the field, which is what the OP is looking for. There is no better single book, the alternative being to buy dozens (hundreds?) of little and very expensive books for each family. Your 5% figure is similar to what I said in the beginning for the Mutillidae (6%), so I think the OP is aware (actually you're repeating what I've said above). Most of that diversity you mention is out of opisska's area of interest (Poland/Czech Rep), in the Mediterranean. I think it's really not comparable to the birds situation. A parallel situation would be if 200 very similar Phylloscopus species existed in Europe, and the author had chosen to include only the 6 or 7 most easily identifiable and widespread species, leaving aside the very restricted endemics and those that you could ID only by killing the bird. It's a bit apples to oranges.
I really don't think you are right here, go through the book and count how many species are reliably identifiable to species and have no confusion taxa in Europe. I've not done this exhaustively, but a quick look through several groups and many (probably a majority) of illustrations are of species that have closely similar congenerics which would require microscopic work or at least very good images from several angles to separate. Rather I think the book is intended as an overview of each family. Unfortunately the text does not indicate which species are highly individual, and which are part of a group of similar species, so without being a specialist you cant know if the individual you are trying to identify is one of these. You only need to look on any internet forum to see just how wildly wide of the mark "nearest fit IDs" can be.
While obviously the insect diversity of Poland will be less than Europe as a whole, it is almost certainly greater than Britain, and have many more undescribed species. Britain has about 25000 species recorded, I know that even near-Continental countries have a much greater number of many families.
The alternative is to start small and do it well, rather than try to identify everything and get frustrated with genus-level or unsatisfactory answers, pick a group with a good literature. Then add groups progressively as confidence builds.
The snap and post route is also open to everyone who can afford a good digital camera. I do this myself for groups I have little experience of, but I would hope naturalists will use this as a route into becoming experienced identifiers themselves. If they don't we'll eventually run out of people who can identify posted photos!
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
I really don't think you are right here, go through the book and count how many species are reliably identifiable to species and have no confusion taxa in Europe. I've not done this exhaustively, but a quick look through several groups and many (probably a majority) of illustrations are of species that have closely similar congenerics which would require microscopic work or at least very good images from several angles to separate. Rather I think the book is intended as an overview of each family. Unfortunately the text does not indicate which species are highly individual, and which are part of a group of similar species, so without being a specialist you cant know if the individual you are trying to identify is one of these. You only need to look on any internet forum to see just how wildly wide of the mark "nearest fit IDs" can be.
While obviously the insect diversity of Poland will be less than Europe as a whole, it is almost certainly greater than Britain, and have many more undescribed species. Britain has about 25000 species recorded, I know that even near-Continental countries have a much greater number of many families.
The alternative is to start small and do it well, rather than try to identify everything and get frustrated with genus-level or unsatisfactory answers, pick a group with a good literature. Then add groups progressively as confidence builds.
The snap and post route is also open to everyone who can afford a good digital camera. I do this myself for groups I have little experience of, but I would hope naturalists will use this as a route into becoming experienced identifiers themselves. If they don't we'll eventually run out of people who can identify posted photos!
I have the funny feeling that either you didn't read my posts above, or that my ability to express myself in English is rather poor.

I really don't think you are right here, go through the book and count how many species are reliably identifiable to species and have no confusion taxa in Europe. I've not done this exhaustively, but a quick look through several groups and many (probably a majority) of illustrations are of species that have closely similar congenerics which would require microscopic work or at least very good images from several angles to separate. Rather I think the book is intended as an overview of each family. Unfortunately the text does not indicate which species are highly individual, and which are part of a group of similar species, so without being a specialist you cant know if the individual you are trying to identify is one of these.
Re (from post #4):
The book is good to narrow down your ID to Family level first and with some luck to genus. You can imagine that with such diversity there is no book that could cover all insect species (especially if you included the Mediterranean). For example, one of the Hymenoptera families, the Mutillidae, is represented in Europe by about 150 species, whilst there are only 3 of those illustrated in the book (those that occur further north and are more widespread). Also, many species are only identifiable by examining the genitalia or with the aid of a powerful stereomicroscope, differing in minimal features from the closest species and those are beyond the scope of this work.
If you reach genus level ID then you'll need to check for specialized literature on many cases to get the exact species (or going to Fauna Europaea website first to know what are the possible species and then go to find the original descriptions, if available online). For common and widespread species specific ID is sometimes possible with the book, and this becomes more true as you go north and west in Europe. The guide is mostly oriented to field ID, and for that it is quite functional.
I can add that not even all families are represented in the book, but those are neglectable from a beginners point of view.

You only need to look on any internet forum to see just how wildly wide of the mark "nearest fit IDs" can be.
I do look at insect internet foruns daily and I'm well aware of this. Even the best specialists for one given group in Europe have doubts (even with the specimen physically present in front of them) and a specialist more often than not will have serious limitations with species from groups he's not familiar with.
My favourite forum is the Forum Entomologi Italiani which is a great source of knowledge, but mainly focused on Italian fauna.

While obviously the insect diversity of Poland will be less than Europe as a whole, it is almost certainly greater than Britain, and have many more undescribed species. Britain has about 25000 species recorded, I know that even near-Continental countries have a much greater number of many families.
The alternative is to start small and do it well, rather than try to identify everything and get frustrated with genus-level or unsatisfactory answers, pick a group with a good literature. Then add groups progressively as confidence builds.
Yes, there are quite a few undescribed species around. If you want to find new species come to Iberia where at least 3-5% of all species are probably wating to be described. But why would be undescribed species an issue to the OP?
Also, what is the problem of having a general book first and then, after being aware a bit more of the existing diversity, perhaps buying a book specialized on day-flying butterflies, or dragonflies or whatever family you'd like to know more about?

From post#1:
but there is a lot of families, many very hard to ID in the field and I don't want to start buying books on each of them. For the Czech Republic, there is a nice feild guide to "all animals" - which quite unsurprisingly spends most of the room on insects - it is by no means exhaustive, it just shows the things you may reasonably expect to encounter AND identify, which is the only sane approach given the sheer number of species.
This is what the OP asked for, no?

When I was doing my Biology degree, more than 20 years ago, this book was actually used as a good overview for students in Entomology classes. Why wouldn't this be enough as a beginners level guidance for a general purpose naturalist? There have been several editions btw, I'm not sure what you have is nearly close to the current edition (I have 2 of those, the oldest from 2000).

The snap and post route is also open to everyone who can afford a good digital camera. I do this myself for groups I have little experience of, but I would hope naturalists will use this as a route into becoming experienced identifiers themselves. If they don't we'll eventually run out of people who can identify posted photos!
This actually contradicts what you've been saying above. Most species will not be identifiable with the snap and post approach, except for very specific groups, such as dragonflies, most (not all) day-flying butterflies and a few others. You'll still need to kill many of the species if you want specialists to be able to ID your insects from photos (i.e. you'll need high quality photos of certain parts usually not possible from a field photograph - of course with many exceptions).

So, I'm not sure what part of my post you think wasn't right, but if you read carefully you'll notice that we actually have the same oppinion on most of this (as I see it, at least).
 

Timbirder3

Well-known member
As Ficedula suggested may be better to start with those groups like Butterflies and Dragonflies that have excellent European field-guides that cover Eastern Europe, including Poland. Plus they have the advantage of being a reasonable size and easy to see.
Tolman and Lewington: Collins Butterfly Guide
Smallshire and Swash: Europe's Dragonflies OR Dijkstra, Schröter and Lewington: Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe
 

pdwinter

Paul Winter
iNaturalist is pretty good for getting people to identify things we have already seen, but knowing what we have not seen yet and whether something seen in the field is something new makes it more exciting.
This is the main thing I took from Jan's OP.

I don't think Chinery will give you that knowledge but it will help in understanding the different insect orders and families within them.

+1 for Pemberley Books.
 

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