Book Review: The Book of Beetles.


The Book of Beetles:  A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature’s Gems – Patrice Bouchard, Editor (2014, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago)

I may be a gardener, but I pretty much freak out whenever I encounter an insect – it doesn’t matter if they’re beneficial or not.  I can handle lady (ladybird) beetles (and by that, I mean I can literally hold them) and butterflies – and for some reason ants don’t upset me unless they’re in my kitchen, building little ant condos and supermarkets beneath my dishwasher.  But everything else either sends me running or – in the case of a certain grossly oversized, hairy moth that once flew into the open window of a vehicle I was driving – to a screeching halt on the side of the road.   Sawyer beetles – you know the ones that are the size of a Honda Civic and sport antennae of a length you normally associate with the rack on a trophy elk – make me positively hysterical.

Still, even if you have only a fractional fondness for insects, it is extremely useful (I’d suggest necessary) to be able to identify them in the home and garden. I came across The Book of Beetles at work and thought maybe it would be helpful for me to properly ID some of the beetles in southern Alberta.  Actually, while some of the 600 beetles in the book do indeed inhabit the province, it’s not really that kind of book.  It’s actually a book about the fashion models of the order Coleoptera.  Every page sports a glorious full colour, life size glossy photo of beetles bedecked in all their finery,*  accompanied by a short bio that answers all of the important questions, such as country of residence and favourite foods.  (“Carpet fibres,” enthuses one, while several others tout the benefits of chewing tree bark).   These beetles are all so staggeringly beautiful and unique, this non-beetle lover paged through the book in complete amazement.  And if I was impressed, anyone interested in beetles would be quite happy, indeed. The photographs are absolutely incredible, and despite its size and weight, the book isn’t text heavy.  (This shouldn’t trouble beetle enthusiasts and scientists, as the intent of the book is clear.  And it will only serve to make people like me take an earnest look).   I don’t think a more enjoyable book about beetles has ever been produced.

*In the case of the reeeeeallly little beetles, there is also a magnified photo to show detail.


Face to Face with 11 Amazing Beetles (BBC World)