Sunday, June 08, 2014

Britains Hoverflies - An Introduction to the Hoverflies of Britain by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris Book Review

by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris

I know this isnt a gadget but those of you that know me know how much I love photographing my insects as I adore macro photography.
Hoverflies have always been some of the toughest insects in the UK to ID as Im sure other insect photographers will agree with me. Every stripe, colour, size and shape has to be accounted for and until now its been extremely difficult to ID with the more basic insect books I have.
There are 281 species of Hoverfly in the Uk alone; although more are being discovered at about 1 species a year.

Princeton Press kindly sent me a copy of Britain's Hoverflies for this review and I can finally get to ID the hundreds of Hoverfly images I have saved on my PC hard-drive properly and accurately.


I already own some of these brilliant Wild guides from Princeton Press and knew I would be getting another detailed informative field guide. I have found these Wild guides invaluable for ID-ing my insects.

The Hoverfly photographs used in this review are my own.

 Helophilus pendulus

When we think of Hoverflies we've all seen them, the gardeners friend flying from flower to flower during the hot days of Summer and hovering silently stock still in midair; as it works out where to go next.
But have you actually looked at these little guys...no? Next time just take a few more seconds to watch and have a look at these adorable flies. Some even mimicking bees and wasps and some you wont even recognize as a hoverfly just an odd looking stripey fly.
I have to stress for those that do not know; Hoverflies DO NOT STING, they are flies and harmless to us, so no squishing please!

Britain has so many different species and sub species of Hoverfly they are a fascinating insect to want to know more about. So I was excited to find out Princeton Press had this Wild Guide ID book published last year by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris. 
Since 1991, Stuart Ball and Roger Morris have jointly run The Hoverfly Recording Scheme. They are the coauthors of Provisional Atlas of British Hoverflies and active members of the Dipterists Forum (the society promoting the study of flies).

 Front and back of Britains Hoverflies

Opinion
Britain's Hoverflies is one of the most beautifully illustrated ID field guides Ive ever seen on this species of insect.
Wow what a stunning book to have in my library!
This is a gorgeous substantially weighted book in your hand. Its approximately the same size as the other Wild guides but its twice as thick. Its super colourful glossy pages are filled to the brim with Hoverfly information and everything you've ever wanted to know on these fascinating insects.
As with all the other Wild Guides your book arrives with a lovely thick plastic transparent cover to be able to take with you into the unknown. It will keep dry and its wipe clean. This for me is a wonderful touch and is just one of the reasons why I love the Wild Guides series.

This gorgeous book contains 296 pages with more than 500 colour photos exploring all the stages of all 69 Hoverfly Genre and 164 most commonly seen species.

 Just look at the quality of these images arn't they gorgeous. You can ID your Hoverfly quickly and easily from this carefully thought out, well composed field guide.
With the combination of quick easy to read species sections; highlighting the key ID features of the insect with stunning macro photos; alongside detailed information on status (rare, common etc), behavior, food and habitat needs and conservation. Plus a map and phenology chart to show that species distribution. It is one of the most comprehensive field guides I have.

There are so many variations in Hoverfly colour, shape and stripe design. This page above is showing you different head and stripe colourations.

 I particularly love this page showing you the comparisons between other insects as some Hoverflies cleverly mimick the Honey bee, Bumble bee and Wasp.

I too was caught out by one of these wasp mimics and only thanks to this book realized it was a Hoverfly and not a species of wasp...I think!
Sheesh so many bits to ID lol!

 Even their butts...sorry...abdomens and main body stripes are quite different between species.

This informative book is divided into easy to read sections depending what you wish to know.
  • Hoverfly Biology, explains their anatomy in detail, their lifecycle from eggs to larvae to fly.
  • How and where to find your Hoverflies,
  • Identifying your Hoverflies, showing macro photos of heads, legs, abdomens and wings and the many differences to look for. As well as colourations and size. Everything is taken into account when ID-ing your Hoverfly. This section is absolutely fascinating.
  • Species Accounts- detailed info on the species and genres, their habitat, breeding, feeding etc of the most popular individual species in the UK. when during the year they can be seen, what they feed on, wing length etc. Colourful maps show how where they can be found in the UK. Plus any other useful bits of info the authors have discovered about that particular species.
You will be saying "Oh wow I didn't know that" so many times.

You can even ID the species right down to the wing veins shown here. Just a simple magnifying glass will enable you to see these details...no killing please. Im completely against killing these insects just to say Ive found this particular species. Just enjoy them as they are, they are often quite tame enough to let you get close to look at them. .

 Beautiful detailed, crisp, macro head drawings show differences between species to help you ID your Hoverfly.

 A clever idea Ive seen in some of the other Wild Guides is this accurate line drawing of their actual wing length; so you can visually see the size immediately. This is so useful.


 Easy to read charts explain how common or rare individual species are and then what page to find more info on them.


Sphaerophotia rueppellii

This is just 1 of the elongated species of Hoverfly found in the UK. I was so lucky to have photographed this little guy as I personally hadn't seen many of these; I was gutted to find how common they are as I hadn't been able to ID him till now! I thought I had a rare one...Oh next time Eh!

Episyrphus known as the Marmalade fly, one of the commonest of the Hoverflies. These are the little guys many of you must have seen during those hot summer days. Colourful, quiet, gentle and fascinating to watch as they hover effortlessly above their flower. This was one of my first photos I took of a hoverfly that got me fascinated by these insects; its over 10 years old.

Summary
Britains Hoverflies is way more than introduction to the genre of insect for me its a complete guide; a fascinating insight to the lives of these clever little bugs. Just a brief flick through the book makes you want to grab your camera and head outside to see what you can find. Its quite inspirational.

I feel this book would not only appeal to wildlife photographers like myself; but to anyone who loves wildlife, professional ecologists and those with an interest in these adorable harmless insects. I believe this could inspire many of you to enjoy insects even more; by knowing more about their fascinating lives makes them even more interesting. The information in this book will be invaluable for ecologists and insect enthusiasts alike. 

This is an ideal gift for anyone who loves their wildlife, they will appreciate the stunning photos in this super detailed field guide.
I really hope Princeton Press will bring out even more of these guides eg, Ladybirds, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders...ok...maybe not spiders.

Britain's Hoverflies is an outstanding field guide with a complete list of the 281 Hoverfly species recorded in the UK to date. Plus with a new Hoverfly species on average found every year; will you be one of those lucky enough to find one, then your going to need this book for starters? 



Buy your 
by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris
From Amazon UK


All my thanks to the lovely girls at Princeton Press for sending me this book for this review.
All my views and opinions are my own.

 Checkout my other book reviews on Princeton press's Wild Guides





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