Monday, November 1, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas

As I write this there are only 54 shopping days until Christmas. Time for my annual gift recommendations for your naturalist friends (or to add to your own wish list). I won’t even toot my own horn for the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Here are three ideas that I am sure will please any “amateur” entomologist out there.

My good friend Daniel Marlos, who started up the website What’ now has a new book to add to his list of successes. The Curious World of Insects: The Bugman’s Guide to the Mysterious and Remarkable Lives of Things That Crawl, a Perigree Book (Penguin Group), has a decidedly whimsical, Victorian-era flavor, in part due to the historical, clip art style illustrations throughout.

Marlos is a visual artist whose interest in insects comes more from a pop culture perspective than an entomological one. Still, Daniel has become a trusted authority in a very short time. He knows Australian insects better than I do, in part because he gets many submissions to his website from that island continent. He is a professor of photography at Los Angeles City College, but is independent of an academic institution when it comes to entomology. This has allowed him to set his own standards for responses to his website users.

Here in his book, he spotlights the insects and related arthropods most frequently encountered and asked about. Daniel’s research skills are first rate, and he excels at interpreting the lives of “bugs” in a way that is both educational and entertaining. It has been my pleasure and delight to see Daniel’s website succeed beyond all expectations; and to see an entomologist and writer metamorphose from such humble beginnings.

Yet another gifted gentleman, Dr. Edward Eric Grissell (Eric to his friends and colleagues), has come out with a much-needed popular book about stinging insects. Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens, published by Timber Press in Portland, Oregon, is an outstanding treatment of this fascinating order of insects.

Grissell’s prose is complemented by the jaw-dropping images that illustrate the book. No other popular book still in print communicates the sheer diversity of bees, wasps, sawflies, ants, and related insects in such an eloquent and captivating fashion. This is not a field guide, but is easily the best overview of Hymenoptera for amateur naturalists. Many specimens will be identifiable from the images in this book, but the reader gets a complete understanding of the biology and ecology of the insects as well.

I can’t help but be amused by the endorsement of the book provided by another author, Amy Stewart, who concludes that “Eric Grissell will make a hymenopteran out of all of us.” I, for one, certainly hope not. I enjoy being a human being. Maybe she meant he’ll make a hymenopterist out of all of us.

My final recommendation is a different product that all of us can use: a wall calendar. The Xerces Society presents its 2011 North American Bee Calendar featuring fabulous images of, and pertinent information about, the many solitary bees that pollinate wildflowers and crops across the continent.

The image here shows the cover of the 2010 calendar, but I can hardly wait to get my hands on the new one. Besides getting a superb product, your purchase aids the premiere invertebrate conservation organization in the world.


  1. Thanks for the suggestions! I too am enjoying being human, and as such enjoy a good read. And yeah, the bee calendar is terrific.

  2. A California based visual artist named Terrance Zdunich is selling a limited edition roach necklace & a comic book series that draws comparisons between its human characters and the roaches lurking in the walls. He is promoting them as a great holiday gift as well. Check it out @


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