500 Insects: A Visual Reference.


528 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55407-345-0
DDC 595.7





Reviewed by George Bryant

George Bryant is an active field botanist and past-president of the Field Botanists of Ontario.


Stephen Marshall, a professor of entomology at the University of Guelph, is well-known for his encyclopedic Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity (2006). This book is a compilation of 500 large images representing some of the most colourful and exotic creatures in the insect world. It is directed to anyone who appreciates the complexity and beauty of insects in all shapes and colours.


There are millions of species of insects, many of them microscopic, making the knowledge and study of them a daunting task. Marshall has done a superb job of presenting many forms in an attractive and easily readable format. His introduction provides a brief but interesting comment on insect variety, thankfully avoiding technical terminology. The introduction also provides useful hints for taking digital photographs of insects.


The book is not an identification guide, but a compilation of insect diversity, form, and function around the world. The bulk of the book presents splendid photographs, all of which were taken by the author. Unlike some insect guides, all pictures are sharp and in focus. There is little text, but what there is is informative, interesting, and geared to the general reader (Marshall uses mainly common names).


The author chose a manageable number of striking insects (many from the tropics) belonging to 22 insect orders to cover his topic. The pictures of the insects are not only beautiful but also fascinating (especially the shots of the rainbow grasshopper, stink bugs, fungus beetles, Madagascar hissing cockroach, big headed ant, and slug caterpillar). Sometimes overlooked in coffee-table books, the index has also been prepared thoughtfully.


Arguably no other book has provided a more attractive introduction to the colour and variety of insects.


Marshall, Stephen A., “500 Insects: A Visual Reference.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/27023.