Editor s Note

Entomologists fall into two categories: those who find insects endlessly fascinating and those who would get rid of them. Those in the first group, likely as not, begin as obsessive butterfly collectors and never quite lose their sense of wonder about the six-legged world. Those who would get rid of insects are afflicted with an impulse to drop bricks on beetles and all other small crawly things. They may eventually wind up working for chemical companies, devising more sophisticated techniques of annihilation.

Seriously, insects, because of their astronomical number, are undeniably important in our lives. They cannot be ignored. Many are "beneficiar'; others, in human terms, are obviously harmful. There is much talk of the damage they do. However, if we evaluate insects across the board according to the measure of our economy, we find that they fall on the credit side of the ledger. The authors of this book point out that whereas damage by insects in the United States has been estimated to run into huge sums annually, their pollinating services alone each year are probably worth considerably more than the damage costs.

So then, indiscriminate eradication is out. Some control is necessary, but we deplore the unscientific spraying that eliminates defoliator and pollinator alike; we resent the primitive methods that kill not only the noxious insects but also their natural controls, their predators and parasites. We regret the decline of attractive butterflies along the roadsides and in our gardens. Particularly upsetting is the widespread use of persistent chemicals, such as the chlorinated hydrocarbons, which poison the ecosystem and travel through the food chain until even bald eagles, ospreys, and peregrine falcons are lethally affected.

There is a strong case for less chemical control of insects and more biological control. This requires a more critical knowledge of insects and demands the ability to differentiate between our allies and our enemies. This Field Guide should be useful to the new-breed of economic entomologists who have the responsibility of resolving the dilemma, but it is really written primarily for the larger audience that includes the general naturalist and the ecolo-gist, as well as the aesthetically oriented citizen who finds pleasure in the psychedelic patterns of butterflies and moths and in the porcelainlike textures of beetles.

North of the United States-Mexican border the species of insects outnumber the birds by more than 100 to 1. To be precise, about 88,600 species have been catalogued. It would be hopeless to include even a tenth of them in a book of field guide size; however, on the family level comprehensive coverage is possible. In this book the authors go below the family level in a few groups. For a complete treatment of eastern butterflies we refer the reader to A Field Guide to the Butterflies by Alexander B. Klots. A western butterfly guide is in preparation.

The identification of insects is more like the identification of flowers than it is like the field recognition of birds. Tiny and catchable, they may be examined in the hand. Their recognition is still a visual process, nevertheless, but more comparable to the bird-in-hand technique of early ornithology than that of present-day fieldglass bird study. The approach is more technical and a fairly complex terminology is often unavoidable. Instead of the binocular, the hand lens becomes the most useful optical instrument.

The device of the arrow in the illustrations, first used in the eastern bird guide and later applied to other books in the Field Guide Series, is particularly useful when dealing with insects, because wing venation and structural detail may be more determinative than obvious patterns and marks.

A hand lens, a folding net, and this Field Guide will take up little space in your knapsack or coat pocket. Take them with you on your travels and tick off the many new things you find.

Roger Tory Peterson

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