Preface

The idea for this book germinated in my mind for many years after my christening in Latin American insect research. As a result of travels to many countries, it became acutely apparent to me that a comprehensive entomological work was sorely needed to serve the many people, both visitors and residents, interested in insects and their other terrestrial arthropod relatives. The curiosity of tourists and general natural historians needed satisfaction, and the more serious minded student and practicing professional needed an up-to-date review of the subject. After a long period of note taking and preliminary organization of my then chaotic knowledge of the subject, I resolved to fashion such a volume.

Some of my colleagues were incredulous that I could cover such a vast territory. But my experience writing general insect guides told me that with cautious choosing, I could make something really useful, though, of course, far from complete. In fact, writing this book has been an exercise in selectivity, especially with respect to the choice of taxonomic groups to include. I relied on my own experience and the experience of others in this process, and I have tried to give information on the most common, conspicuous, or otherwise notable (economically or historically important) units, whether species, genera, or higher groups. The other topics of discussion, such as ecology and the study of insects, have also been presented with an eye to the reader's need for an overall understanding of what has transpired and is transpiring in Latin American entomology and to providing a framework for review and citation of pertinent literature.

Some who read this book will feel slighted because of the lack of coverage of topics of particular interest to them, or they may consider that important facts, taxa, or publications have been omitted. I can only ask these readers to remember the vastness of the subject and the necessity for extreme conservatism in choices of matter for inclusion. Of course, I welcome suggestions for additions or changes in emphasis for future editions.

I have designed the book to answer questions. In my language and in the selection of taxa/phenomena, and points of information about each, I have been guided by my perception of what most readers want to know rather than a desire to produce an encylopedia of all the facts that might be recorded. The technical literature, to which I have so freely referred, will serve the latter purpose. Indeed, to present in-depth data, keys to identification, and exhaustive treatments of even the major categories of Latin American insect life would require many volumes and years of effort to produce and would not produce the ready, readable, and portable text that I think is most needed now.

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