They are everywhere around us yet easily overlooked. Now a new pocket guide puts the spotlight on South Africa’s insects. By Arnold Ras
They are the most diverse animal group on Earth, making up a staggering 90% of all animal species. They also dominate most marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats. What am I talking about? Insects, of course.
This according to the authors of Pocket Guide Insect of South Africa, Mike Picker and Charles Griffiths. Mike and Charles, respectively Associate Professor and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, came up with a nifty and easy-to-use book to identify 260 common and interesting insects found in SA. One lucky Wild reader stands a chance to win a copy.
For those not so clueless when it comes to insects, the compact guide’s index to common or scientific names will quickly refer you to a page number with a glossy and colourful image of the specific insect and a distribution map. Now, if you are anything like me, fascinated by all things creeping and crawling, but not so knowledgeable when insects are on the agenda, rather start your read on page 11: “How to use this book.”
Because Pocket Guide Insects of South Africa only features a fraction of the approximately 100,000 insect species in South Africa, it has been written at the family level, ordering the insects into groups such as earwigs, twisted wing parasites, moths and butterflies, termites, and cockroaches, to mention a few.
Before packing this fascinating read for your next Wild trip, do take the time to read the authors’ introduction, which explains exactly what differentiates insects from spiders, scorpions, myriopods and crustaceans. You will also learn more about an insect’s body parts and life cycle, their importance and where to find them.
For me, new information is only fun when you can share it. Fun facts like: “Over one million different [insect] species have been described, and it is estimated that there are an additional 3 to 30 million species awaiting discovery.” Or: “Among the many arthropod groups, insects are the only ones to have developed wings.”
My family and friends can look forward to learning more about insects. Pocket Guide Insects of South Africa is not just an interesting introduction to the wonderful lives and ways of insects, but one guide that I will definitely refer to more often.
Pocket Guide Insects of South Africa. Charles Griffiths, Mike Picker. 2016. Struik Nature. R150.