Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A gem from my bug book period

“Insekter i färg” is a small gem from my bug period. I originally found it at the local public library as a kid. At some later point, I bought my own little copy. Still have it! Originally published in 1953, my copy is dated 1979 and marked “Seventh edition, fourth printing”. The species presentations are written by Bengt-Olof Landin. The color plates were designed by Edgar Hahnewald, while the black-and-white illustrations come to us courtesy of Cynthia O'Brien.

Of course, “Insekter i färg” (Insects in color) is a very old fashioned “field guide”. Color plates and species presentations aren't on facing pages. The Latin names have accents so the Swedish reader can pronounce them correctly (!). Some insect groups (such as dragonflies and damselflies) are only represented with one species each. Perhaps dragonfly-watching wasn't at an advanced stage in Sweden circa 1953? However, the editors made the wise decision to include as many butterflies and macro-moths as possible, so the field guide doesn't look as disgusting as it could have. I mean, we're talking about *insects*, remember?

The notorious Colorado potato beetle and its larvae have a plate all its own, so people can report it to the proper authorities if and when it shows up! Trust me, potato farmers have no respect for the “animal rights” of this notorious bug. Weirdly, there are five species of insects which are protected by law in Sweden. One of them, the small wasp Scolia hirta, isn't illustrated in this guide. Why not? What if I accidentally step on it when chasing Colorado beetles? I did some checking, and it turns out that only one of the protected species, the flat bark beetle Cucujus cinnaberinus is truly threatened on a global scale. The others are rare in Sweden, but amply provided for in the rest of the Eurasian landmass. I suppose I don't have to worry about stepping on a Scolia hirta, after all…

I'm not sure how useful “Insekter i färg” may be in the field, and since I don't like bugs anymore, I'm not in the business of finding out. However, for old time's sake, I'm going to give this opus five stars anyway!

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