I’m looking to get a few field guides I can use to identify various insects. I don’t care how heavy they are, they’ll be staying at home to ID photos with. I prefer guides with illustrations over photos, and I appreciate when they put similar-looking species side-by-side and outright tell you how to differentiate the two.
I’d like a guide to dragonflies and damselflies. From what I’m reading, the number of them in Texas is such that it would be possible to put all of them in one book, so I’d like a book that has all of them in it. Helps ID things when I know for sure the one I’m looking for is in the book somewhere.
I’d also like a guide to moths and butterflies. Obviously not a number of species there that can fit in a book, so let’s just go for decently thorough on day-active species. Sorted by shape, size, or color might be helpful here. I would really appreciate caterpillar and pupa images as well.
Finally, I’d like something on general insects and arthropods. I know enough about them to usually be reasonably certain what approximate group my critter is in, but I’d like to be able to get more specific than “assassin bug”, “darkling beetle”, “fly?”, “paper wasp”, “aquatic larva”, or the like.
I’m not in Texas, but have spent time there, and can tell you what I use for many areas of the country.
For dragonflies and damselflies, my go-to guides are Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (and West). Texas could get some from East or West, but I think his guides do a good job of including that overlap, so I’d probably start with the eastern guide for Texas. They are photo guides, not illustrations, but he also does a good job of explaining ID points to look for.
For moths, we have the Peterson Field Guides to Moths - right now there is one for Northeastern and Southeastern North America. We don’t live in either of those regions, but I can usually find something close and then search family, subfamily, or genus on Bugguide and find my moth (or at least get it close). For butterflies, I usually use Kaufman’s guide.
For general insects, I’d have to recommend Kaufman’s Guide to Insects of North America. Even if my husband hadn’t written it, I’d still find it extremely useful for getting things in the ballpark.
Again, once I get a possible ID, I often search on the advanced search of Bugguide to confirm or try and narrow down further. If you haven’t used that, click on search, then advanced search. That will bring up a form where you can start typing a taxonomic name and click on what you want. You can narrow it down by state (and even county), month, etc. You’ll only get what people have submitted for that area, but if it’s an area where lots of people have recorded stuff, you can often find your organism there.
Hope this is helpful!
The late Greg Lasley did a lot of work with Odonata - here’s his list for NA. He was from Texas. North American Dragonflies and Damselflies Index (greglasley.com)
His website also includes info on many groups, including Lepidoptera.
Look for John Abbott’s book Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-Central United States.
He recently came out with books for both Dragonflies and Damselflies (one each) which I believe are more in the field guides and (I assume) not as deep with information as the 2005 book, which is chocked full of info on each species and a handy visual map by county of the state. Since the publish date is 15 years ago, I assume some county info has changed, but I haven’t noticed an issue.
I posted a question in the form two days ago listing my favorite books - I live in a Dallas suburb. You might find that link I list favorite, informative books for several orders… Most of these are not the size you would carry around in the field.
John and Kendra Abbott also recently came out with a Common Insects of Texas and surrounding states in addition to the excellent previously mentioned Odonata books.
Alright, I think I’ll try the John Abbott book on dragonflies and damselflies, and the Kaufman butterfly guide. For general insects, I’m inclined towards Abbott, since I wouldn’t be flipping past a lot of insects that aren’t native. Will definitely check out Bugguide.
Thanks for the advice, all.
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