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Insects A to Z

* Book Type:

Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: by Stephen A. Marshall
Audience: Juvenile
Age range lower: 7
Age range upper: 10
Specs: full color photos throughout, glossary
Pages: 32
Trim Size: 8" x 10" X 5/16"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20090910
Copyright Year: 2009
Price: Select Below


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Insects A to Z

A beautifully illustrated dictionary of 26 insects.

A beautifully illustrated dictionary of 26 insects.

Insects A to Z uses an accessible and successful format to describe 26 insects. Each page features two full-color photographs of the insect and one or two descriptive paragraphs. There are also the Latin and common names of the order, family, genus and species, as well as information on geographic distribution. Fact boxes for each entry provide at-a-glance information detailing each insect's scientific name, diet, average size and the location at which each was photographed.

The 26 insects are:

  • Army ants
  • Bumble bees
  • Cicadas
  • Darner dragonflies
  • Earwigs
  • Fireflies
  • Grasshoppers
  • Hummingbird moths
  • Ichneumonid wasps
  • Jewel beetles
  • Katydids
  • Lacewings
  • Mosquitoes
  • Net-winged midges
  • Owlflies
  • Paper wasps
  • Queen termites
  • Robber flies
  • Spider wasps
  • Tiger beetles
  • Urania moths
  • Viceroy butterflies
  • Weevils
  • Xylocopid bees
  • Yucca moths
  • Zebra clubtails.

The book has a varied audience: middle school students exploring topic ideas, younger students interested in wildlife and advanced early readers who still enjoy picture books. Accurate and up-to-date information and an informal presentation make Insects A to Z an engaging view into the world of insects.


Stephen A. Marshall is a professor of entomology at the University of Guelph. He has discovered hundreds of new species, several new genera and even two new subfamilies. His previous book is the widely acclaimed Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity.



The English language contains about a quarter of a million distinct words, of which around 175,000 appear in the Oxford English Dictionary. That seems like a lot, but it is dwarfed by the millions of different insect species on the planet. This problem of naming all the insects is dealt with by using two Latin or Latinized words to give each species a scientific name. One word (always capitalized) refers to the genus, which is a group of related species. The second word (never capitalized) is the species name. The resultant unique names are always written in italics. For example, Musca domestica is the common House Fly. About a million insects have been given these sorts of formal names so far, so it would be easy to pick from all those names to find 26 insects with scientific names fitting the 26 letters of the alphabet, but most readers would probably be put off by unpronounceable names like the flies Prolasioptera aeschynanthusperottetii and Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyoides and prefer names like Honey Bee, army ant and tree cricket.

The 26 entries in this book are almost all drawn from English words rather than the formal scientific names of insects. Those English combinations, however, require a bit of explanation. First of all, common names differ from time to time and place to place. Thus, the sand fly of South America, the sand fly of North America, and the sand fly of New Zealand are not the same thing (they are in the three different families Psychodidae, Ceratopogonidae and Simuliidae). Just as the same common name can be applied to more than one species, well-known species often have many different "correct" common names. For example, the Corn Earworm, Tomato Fruitworm and Cotton Bollworm are caterpillars of the same species of moth (with the unique scientific name Helicoverpa zea).

Good common names are memorable and tell us a lot about the habits, habitats or appearance of the species they describe, and they also usually adhere to a few useful conventions. When you see a capitalized common name (House Fly) it means that it is a proper name for a single species, but if it is in lower case (grasshopper) it refers to more than one species. If a common name includes an order name like "fly" as a separate word it means that the insect really is a fly (a member of the order Diptera), whereas if the order name is part of a compound word it just means that there is a superficial or imaginary similarity. A House Fly is indeed a fly, a dragonfly is not a fly but it would be pretty cool to see a dragon fly. Have fun!


Table of Contents

Army Ants
Bumble Bees
Darner Dragonflies
Hummingbird Moths
Ichneumonid Wasps
Jewel Beetles
Net-winged Midges
Paper Wasps
Queen Termites
Robber Flies
Spider Wasps
Tiger Beetles
Urania Moths
Viceroy Butterflies
Xylocopid Bees
Yucca Moths
Zebra Clubtail

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