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Field Guide Books

Summary: Suggestions for Insect Field Guides. Books are still easier to access and have more complete information than online sources.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

A good field guide (right) is the best reference source for non-specialists to identify an unknown insect or spider. Field guides generally have photographs, distribution maps and life histories for the common species in a particular area, organized in some logical grouping.

Field guides usually are written for a particular region such as North America, or the eastern US, or the western US, and so on. They can also specialize in a particular insect group such as beetles or butterflies.

In general, the more specific a field guide is in terms of group and regional coverage the more detailed the information will be, but this comes at the expense of broad coverage. So, for example, a field guide of the beetles of Oregon will contain far more detail about the beetles of Oregon than will a field guide about the insects of North America. I like more narrowly focused books because they give me the detailed coverage I need but they can be more difficult to use until you are somewhat familiar with the topic.

Field guides are highly individualized in that what works for you may not work for someone else. Each publisher and author has their own way of organizing the same basic information so don't be afraid to compare field guides until you find the one that suits you.

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Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D.

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