Practical Entomologist

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From exploring the basic principles of entomology to starting a collection, The Practical Entomologist is the perfect introduction to the world of insects.
Beginning with the basics, the text describes what characterizes an insect, including anatomy and the life cycle. It takes an order-by-order look at insects, explaining how each group differs from another and why certain types of insects have been classified together.
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From exploring the basic principles of entomology to starting a collection, The Practical Entomologist is the perfect introduction to the world of insects.
Beginning with the basics, the text describes what characterizes an insect, including anatomy and the life cycle. It takes an order-by-order look at insects, explaining how each group differs from another and why certain types of insects have been classified together.
The book shows you not only what to look for but how and where to look for it — from capturing and keeping live insects to ways of making a collection and taking photographs. Tips on keeping a field notebook are also included.
Packed with more than 200 full-color illustrations, this comprehensive guide is a valuable reference tool for nature enthusiasts.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
For beginners who wish to be serious hobbyists, these two latest entries in Fireside's ``Practical'' series see Rick Imes's The Practical Botanist and Steve Parker's The Practical Paleontologist , LJ 6/15/91 can also help high school and college students understand basic tenets of geology and biology. Each book offers an overview of the main principles of its field. The Practical Geologist describes the history of the solar system, planetary development, and plate tectonics. The Practical Entomologist looks at anatomy and taxonomy. Each book describes proper fieldwork procedures, explains how to employ collecting tools and techniques, cautions readers about preserving rare specimens, and offers tips on keeping notes and mounting accurately documented collections. Major portions of each book are devoted to descriptions of particular specimens: insect families and species for entomology. The Practical Geologist contains an exhaustive explanation of how to draw geologic maps of rock layers by tracing outcrops. The Practical Entomologist lists organizations and biological supply companies that sell collecting gear and insects for study. Libraries will find these volumes an effective complement to field guides, especially for readers interested in learning how to get started building a serious geological or insect collection.-- Laurie Tynan, Montgomery Cty.-Norristown P.L., Pa.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671746957
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 8/28/1992
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 488,392
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Imes has been an avid naturalist and nature photographer for more than eleven years. He was Park Naturalist for Hickory Run State Park in White Haven, Pennsylvania. He lives in Vermont with his wife, Sandy, daughters Krista and Samantha, and their yellow Labrador, Hickory.

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Table of Contents




What are Insects?

Close Relatives

Taxonomy: Order from Chaos

Anatomy and Morphology

Mouthparts and Feeding

Wings and Flight


Insect Senses

Insect Behavior

Social Insects

Offense and Defense

Enemies and Allies



Capturing Insects

Keeping Live Insects

Making a Collection

Insect Photography

Keeping a Field Notebook









Grasshoppers and Katydids




Selected Families



Selected Families



Selected Families



Selected Families



Selected Families



Selected Families


Selected Orders





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First Chapter

Chapter 1


Just what are insects, anyway? Often, any small creature with more than four legs is indiscriminately labeled a "bug," but true bugs represent only one of many different groups of insects. What's more, many of these creepy, crawling critters are not insects at all, but may belong to one of several related but very different groups.

Insects, as it turns out, are characterized by several easily recognized traits that set them apart from any other group of organisms. Like other members of the Phylum Arthropoda (which, literally translated, means "jointed foot"), and unlike mammals, for example, insects possess an external skeleton, or exoskeleton, which encases their internal organs, supporting them as our skeleton supports us and protecting them as would a suit of armor on a medieval knight. Unlike other arthropods, their body is divided into three distinct regions -- the head, thorax, and abdomen. Insects are the only animals that have three pairs of jointed legs, no more or less, and these six legs are attached to the thorax, the middle region of the body.

Most insects possess two pairs of wings, which are also attached to the thorax; the major exception to this rule are the flies, whose second pair of wings is reduced to tiny vestigial appendages that function as stabilizers in flight. Wings, when present, are a sure indicator that an arthropod belongs to the insect class. However, most ants and a number of more primitive insect groups are normally wingless, so the absence of wings does not by itself mean that the creature in question is not an insect.


It wasproposed in the foreword that insects could be considered the dominant form of life on earth, Insects have discovered the basic premise that there is strength in numbers. Their life cycles are quite short, less than one year in most cases, and many have a much shorter span, either by design or through predation. They compensate for this by producing astronomical numbers of offspring: so many, in fact, that were it not for the world's insect-eating animals we would surely be overrun within a very short time.

Short lifespans and high reproductivity arm insects with their greatest advantage -- adaptability. It works like this: mutations, those genetic variations resulting in physical, biological, or behavioral changes, occur randomly in every population of organisms. When large numbers of offspring are produced, mutations are therefore relatively frequent, and some invariably enhance an individual's ability to compete for its needs or to adjust to changes in its surroundings. Beneficial mutations afford better odds of reaching sexual maturity and passing on the advantageous trait to future generations. Thus equipped, such "improved" individuals can rapidly replace large segments of their species' population that have been decimated by some disturbance in their surroundings.


There are several groups of animals that could possibly be confused with insects, and all of these are members of the group known as arthropods. Arthropods compose most of the known animal species, and about 800,000 of the 900,000 or so species of arthropods are insects. The others include crustaceans, spiders, centipedes, and millipedes.


All have exoskeletons containing varying amounts of chitin, a durable organic compound. It was once thought that the amount of chitin present determined the rigidity of the exoskeleton, but more recent research showed that its hardness is proportional to the protein content of the outer layer, or cuticle, and that more chitin is found in the soft inner cuticle. In addition to providing protection against injury, the exoskeleton is very water resistant, which inhibits water loss through evaporation. This major evolutionary adaptation allowed arthropods to colonize dry land while other invertebrates were restricted to aquatic habitats.

For all of its advantages, the exoskeleton of an arthropod is also a hindrance. Its weight limits the maximum size that any arthropod may attain, so none becomes very big and the largest are invariably aquatic, where buoyancy helps offset the greater burden. The non-elastic nature of the exoskelton's outer cuticle is an obstacle to growth, for in order to attain a larger size, hard-shelled arthropods must first shed, or molt, their outer layer, which splits open along a genetically-determined seam. Through this opening emerges the now soft-bodied animal, whose elastic inner cuticle can accommodate growth. Those arthropods that rely upon a very hard exoskeleton for defense are particularly vulnerable at this time and often hide until their growth period is over and their armor has again hardened. Most arthropods molt from four to seven times throughout their life.

Also common to all arthropods are bodies that are segmented to varying degrees, jointed appendages (some of which have differentiated to perform specialized functions), and relatively large and well-developed sensory organs and nervous systems, which enable the animals to respond rapidly to stimuli.


Named for the Latin term crusta, meaning "hard shell," nearly all crustaceans are aquatic, and most live in marine environments, although a few of the most familiar, such as crayfish and water fleas, inhabit freshwater, while others, such as certain species of crab, are to be found in brackish water. Lobsters, fairy shrimp, and barnacles are well-known marine crustaceans; sowbugs, those small armored creatures one finds under rocks or in soil, are among the few terrestrial crustaceans.

The head and thorax of crustaceans are combined into one structure, the cephalothorax, which may be covered by a shieldlike carapace. Their number of paired appendages is variable, but they have at most only one pair per body segment. Only some of these are "legs," attached to the cephalothorax and used for walking. In some species, the first pair of legs are equipped with large pincers modified for grasping offensively or defensively. Other appendages are variously adapted for different functions, such as equilibrium, touch, and taste, chewing, food handling, mating, egg-carrying, swimming, and circulating water over the gills.

Some crustaceans are so unusual that their membership in the Class Crustacea can only be determined in their larval stages by zoologists. The barnacles that tend to encrust any marine surface and the water fleas commonly used in high school biology lab experiments are two such oddballs.

Horseshoe crabs

Though unlikely to be mistaken for any type of insect, these "living fossils" are nonetheless arthropods, and the two groups share some very basic features. Horseshoe crabs, named for the shape of their brown, domed carapace, are marine animals. There are two prominent compound eyes, located atop the carapace, as well as two inconspicuous simple eyes. They have a dorsal abdominal shield edged with short spines, and a bayonetlike tail that, despite its formidable appearance, functions mainly to turn the beast over after it has been flipped upside-down by the surf, lest it remain stranded out of water or succumb to ravenous gulls. Horseshoe crabs have six pairs of jointed appendages on the cephalothorax.

Spiders and their kin

Members of the Class Arachnida (from the Greek term for spider, arachne) include spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, and others. It is this group more than any other that is usually confused with insects. Like crustaceans, the body of an arachnid is divided into a cephalothorax and an abdomen. Arachnids have four pairs of jointed legs, all attached to the cephalothorax, although some, like scorpions, possess a pair of large pedipalpi, appendages armed with formidable pincers

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2013

    if you are interested all about bugs and how to catch them, this

    if you are interested all about bugs and how to catch them, this book is great reference to have on your shelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

    we already had this book

    needed a second copy for science olympiad- not really my kind of reading so i just placed highly recommended

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