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Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America

by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman

Published in spring 2007, the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America was quickly embraced by amateur entomologists and by professional naturalists and educators for its thorough, accurate, non-technical treatment of this continent's insect fauna.

The sheer diversity of the insect realm had fascinated Kenn Kaufman since the age of 13 (only seven years after he started watching birds!), and with this book project he was finally able to focus on insects in a serious way. Most people pay scant attention to insects (except perhaps as sources of annoyance), so they are unaware of the dazzling variety of insect life that can be found even in a suburban yard or small city park. Just in the United States and Canada there are close to 90,000 different species of insects, including nearly 11,000 kinds of moths and over 25,000 kinds of beetles, all with their own color patterns, forms, and habits.

 This great diversity of insect life is wonderful, but it also poses a huge challenge for anyone who is trying to write a pocket-sized field guide! Some technical works for professional entomologists have treated insects at the level of higher classifications, looking at the diagnostic details that make it possible to identify insects to order or family. However, many of these details can be seen only under a microscope, so they are only useful to the person who is willing to prepare a scientific collection. The Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America celebrates a kind of "naked-eye entomology," focusing on the insects that are large, conspicuous, or common enough to be noticed by the average person. Professional biologists will still use their technical works, but this field guide is intended for everyone else.

Because the guide will often identify insects only to their general group, not to species, this guide does not include range maps. This leaves more room for text about the remarkable behaviors of many insects. 

Eric R. Eaton, principal author of the guide, is a writer specializing in natural history. He has worked as an entomologist for the Cincinnati Zoo and on contract for the Smithsonian Institution, Portland State University, and other clients, and he has written numerous articles for popular magazines. Eric was recommended as lead author for this insect field guide by the renowned naturalist Robert Michael Pyle, and Kenn Kaufman wasted no time in following up on the recommendation and recruiting him.

Anyone with an interest in insects should follow his blog, Bug Eric, which often includes surprising or amusing revelations about the six-legged creatures. For the eight-legged types (which are mentioned only briefly in the Kaufman guide), Eric also provides expertise at the Spider Identification website. And for proof that Eric's interests range far beyond entomology and arachnology, check out the thought-provoking essays that he posts on Sense of Misplaced.

Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. 2007. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. ISBN: 978-0-618-15310-7

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