Peeper, First Voice of Spring by Robert M. McClung

February 24th, 2012

Wonderful, descriptive prose really brings to life the process of moving from winter to spring. Informative descriptions of different eggs you may find in ponds ? frogs, toads, salamanders. Discusses hazards faced by the Spring Peeper eggs and tadpoles, along with other facets of their life history. I was surprised to learn that Spring Peepers don't mate (at least males (like the individual in the story), I'm still not positive about females) until they are two or three years old. While the focus is on Spring Peepers, the book mentions other species at the pond such as red-winged blackbirds, turtles, beetles, and salamanders.

Pen and ink illustrations by Carol Lerner are realistic and exceptional.

Citation: McClung, Robert M. 1977. Peeper, First Voice of Spring. William Morrow and Company: New York.

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Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia: E 597.8

Bzzz, Bzzz! Mosquitoes in your backyard by Nancy Loewen

February 6th, 2012

An entertaining book to read to your kids or for an early reader to ready to you. You'll learn why mosquitoes bite even though their main food is nectar, just like butterflies. Loewen provides details on what makes bites itch, how to avoid being bitten, and what to do after a bite. She also details the life stages of mosquitoes, and their importance in a well-balanced ecosystem. A well-written text, clear illustrations, and a glossary explain the scientific words used in the book. This is far preferable to Jeff Glassberg's decision to use ?tongue? instead of proboscis in American Butterflies, a magazine for adults published by the North American Butterfly Association.

A ?Fun Facts? is that mosquitoes are attracted to light. True, but a few details are missing. I'm mentioning this not as a criticism of the book ? it's intended for beginning readers and younger ? but to provide information blog readers may find useful. An outdoor incandescent light may attract mosquitoes, so you may want to make sure your deck light is fluorescent (source: http://www.marysvilleohio.org/BuildingGroundsPages/Mosquito_Control.htm). Mosquitoes aren't attracted to UV light either, so if you have a bug zapper, you are killing harmless wildlife like moths. There have been several scientific studies of the effectiveness of bug zappers ? they are effective at killing insects, but not the ones you want or intend to kill. Out of 10,000 insects killed, 8 were mosquitoes. It gets worse, for every mosquito killed, 250 insects that actually kill and eat mosquitoes were killed. Bug zappers make your insect problem worse! (source: Discovering Moths by John Himmelman)

Citation: Loewen, Nancy. 2006. Bzzz, Bzzz! Mosquitoes in your backyard. Picture Window Books: Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Find this book in a library:

Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia: E 595.772 LOE
Adair County Public Library (Kirksville): JUV 595.772 Loe

Photo of the Week: Here's a photo of a mosquito trying to bite me through a pair of jeans. I'll have to admit my family had some serious questions about my sanity when I decided to sit outside at dusk and make images of biting mosquitoes!

Don't Squash That Bug! The curious kid's guide to insects by Natalie Rompella

February 6th, 2012

This is a great book! It has sections on the most commonly found insect orders and for most orders provides a few hints on identifying the insects you see. Each order is allotted two pages in the book; information typically includes some basic biology and the benefits to people.

I do have a few minor complaints. There are several references to ?insects and animals? as though insects weren't animals. And despite a legitimate need to caution about handling some insects, I think the author is overly cautious about bees and wasps and not cautious enough about handling true bugs (Heteroptera).

The biggest drawback to the book is the inclusion of non-North American insects in a book designed to get kids outside watching insects. For more information on how this common trend of books, tv, and film to ignore North American wildlife ?may promote negative attitudes toward North American fauna?, see Ryan Patrick Fitzgibbons. 2007. The Preference for the exotic in wildlife broadcast film. M.A. thesis, Science and Natural History Filmmaking, Montana State University, Bozeman.

Overall, though, I really like this - quite a few nice photographs, a glossary rather than a tendency to avoid scientific terms and suggested insect watching tips. Rompella's title and text emphasize the importance of not harming insects in order to reap their many benefits.

Citation: Natalie Rompella. 2007. Don't Squash That Bug! The curious kid's guide to insects. Lobster Press: Montreal, Quebec.

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Find this book at a library:
Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia: E 595.7 ROM
Springfield ? Greene County Library District: 595.7 R
Missouri River Regional Library (Jefferson City): J 595.7 Rom
Adair County Public Library (Kirksville): A JUV 595.7 Rom
Cape Girardeau Public Library: 595.7 ROM

A Hunchback Bee Fly (Lepidophora lepidocera) feeds on Black-eyed Susan nectar. Immatures hatch inside of wasp nests and eat the food provided for the wasp larvae.

Insects: Biggest! Littlest! by Sandra Markle

February 6th, 2012

This is a great book for introducing kids to ecological concepts. The title might make you think it's just a look at insects at either end of the size range, but actually the text documents how size contributes to survival of different animals. A few of the photographs could be a bit sharper, but there are images of unusual insects, including a male stalk-eyed fly.

Citation: Insects: Biggest! Littlest! by Sandra Markle. Boyds Mills Press: Honesdale, Pennsylvania. 2009.

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Find this book in a library:
Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia: E 595.7 MAR
Springfield ? Greene County Library District: 595.7 M
Missouri River Regional Library (Jefferson City): J 595.7 MAR

In keeping with the size theme, many moths are so tiny that they escape notice by most people. Many small moths are very attractive but no one ever bothers to take a closer look.

Keeping Minibeasts: Caterpillars by Barrie Watts

February 6th, 2012

Keeping Minibeasts: Caterpillars will provide you with the basics for successfully raising caterpillars. It gives advice on cages, how to handle caterpillars without harming them, and how to feed them. It also provides some interesting information on caterpillars, such as strategies they use to avoid being eaten. There are lots of photographs of caterpillars, but they aren't identified.

Citation: Keeping Minibeasts: Caterpillars. 1989. Mankato, Minnesota: Sea-to-Sea Publications

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Find this book in a library:
Daniel Boone Regional Library, Columbia: E 595.78 WAT
St. Louis Public Library: J 595.78043
Kansas City Public Library: J 595.78 W34C
Adair County Public Library (Kirksville): JUV 638 Wat
Rolla Public Library: J 638.57

Notes on Rearing Caterpillars by Ann Thering

Here's a photo from August 12, 2009, of a Hickory Horned Devil, the caterpillar of the Royal Hickory Moth. I fed Shagbark Hickory leaves to this caterpillar for about 7 weeks this summer until I had to stop raising him when I left on a photo trip. This caterpillar was almost 5? long and about 1/2? in diameter when I took this photo.