Essential entomology cover

George McGavin and Leonidas-Romanos Davranoglou

Oxford University Press


ISBN: 9780192843111

Reviewed by Tom Pope

It is a little over 20 years since the publication of the first edition of Essential Entomology. In this second edition, George McGavin is joined by Leonidas-Romanos Davranoglou and the excellent illustrations are again provided by Richard Lewington. As with the first edition, the aim of this second addition is to ‘provide a readable introduction to the most abundant multicellular life forms on Earth’.

The book is simply structured, consisting of just three clearly defined sections. The first section provides an overview of insect evolution and biology. A highlight for me in this section is the focus on the ‘five factors in a winning formula’ in which the factors that have been central to the success of the Insecta are discussed; to me this is a great way of focusing attention on perhaps the most interesting aspects of insect biology.

While the book does not claim to be a field guide, the final section does focus on fieldwork. Here the emphasis is very much to encourage the reader to get out and study insects first hand. Practical guidance is provided on the different methods that can be used to collect insects and how different approaches may be better suited to particular insect orders. There are also useful sections on killing, preservation and data recording.

The main part of the book, as in the first edition, is the second section, which introduces each insect order. This is an approach I liked in the first edition and so I am delighted that this has been kept for the second edition. Each insect order is introduced clearly with information on the number of species, distribution as well as aspects of the biology, including key features for each order. The text for each insect order is complemented by some wonderful illustrations as well as a wealth of high-quality photographs. Another aspect I am pleased to see is that each section ends with a comprehensive list of key reading. In this way the book serves as an excellent gateway to the world of entomology.

The book is very reasonably priced and at the time of writing can be purchased for around £35 in paperback or around £70 in hardback. In addition, the book is also available for eReaders. For me the book certainly delivers on its aim to provide a readable introduction to entomology and I can only hope that it will help inspire many people to develop a fascination and appreciation of insects.