I am pleased to be able to review a book about the vast range of insects that reside in gardens rather than one that is fixated on trying to eliminate (often unnecessarily) those that eat plants. The authors have somehow managed to accomplish the near impossible task of selecting only around 150 species that represent the thousands that inhabit gardens in Britain and North-West Europe. Illustrated with fabulous photographs throughout, the addition of identification notes improves their value. A huge amount of information for each species is given in a reasonably clear layout that includes life cycles, times of occurrence, habitat, distribution, and reference to similar species. There is a clear introduction, with summary information on attracting more insects into gardens and how to photograph them. Summaries of insect anatomy and insect orders also add extra value.
What the book isn’t, is a comprehensive identification guide to garden insects. Entomologists familiar with the northern European fauna will no doubt question why a particular species was included whilst others are missing; for example, I was pleased to see the inclusion of the Lily Beetle, but surprised to find Vine Weevil was omitted. The species descriptions can seem a bit verbose, especially given the brevity required for the format of this book, but that is perhaps due to a necessity to avoid technical language. Some of the ‘facts’ may encourage less than ideal behaviour, for example the Common Dronefly is described as ‘super-fly’ because ‘remove the wings it keeps feeding as if nothing has happened’ which should not have survived the final edit. The book is, however, not aimed at entomologists but to help the recognition of insects in gardens and to encourage their appreciation. In this respect, I have confidence that this book will inform and inspire an appreciation of the insect life in gardens and further afield. With any luck, books such as this will replace those on ‘pests’ completely!