Ladybirds by Helen E Roy, Peter MJ Brown, Richard F Comont, Remy L Poland, John J Sloggett – Illustrated by: Sophie Allington & Chris Shields | Paperback | Pelagic Publishing | May 2013 | Edition: 2 | 142 pages | plates with colour illustrations | b/w line drawings | colour maps | ISBN-13: 9781907807077 | NHBS Price: £19.99
Publishers View: Revised from Majerus & Kearns (1989) – This revised and updated edition of Ladybirds provides a succinct but comprehensive and accessible overview of the biology of ladybirds and their parasites, focusing on ecology in an evolutionary context. It provides the latest information, coverage of recent additions to the British list including the harlequin ladybird, and makes suggestions for further research, both short and long term, highlighting gaps in knowledge and showing readers how to get involved with recording and studying ladybirds.
It includes updated keys for the identification of ladybirds at late-instar larval and adult stages, and techniques for studying ladybirds and their parasites in both laboratory and field. The authors hope that Ladybirds will be a valuable resource, not only for students, from school to university and beyond, but also for anyone with an interest in natural history, whether professional or recreational.
Lead Author: Helen E. Roy combined research with teaching for 10 years before taking up a position (research scientist) with the Biological Records Centre (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) where she is responsible for zoological data and research and works extensively with national zoological schemes and societies. Her research focuses on the effects of environmental change on insect populations and communities. She is particularly interested in the dynamics of invasive species and their effects on native biodiversity.
The ecology of ladybirds is a subject that appeals to the public and throughout her career Helen has taken every opportunity to communicate her research to a wider audience. This has included natural history talks, school visits, bioblitz, popular science articles, podcasts and a significant number of interviews with the media. The arrival of the non-native harlequin ladybird in 2004 captured the imagination of the media and there has been sustained media interest in research on this species over the last six years.
Fatbirder View: I do not have a great deal to say. I have learned a lot about ladybirds in the last hour or so… some of which may stick! The publisher describes this as accessible to all, and, while it is clearly written without too much jargon etc… it is not quite as accessible as this aging amateur birder thought it would be. I found myself reading and re-reading passages – and it reminded me that it’s been a while since I read any hard science. I can’t really blame authors or editors as almost all unfamiliar terms are explained, it’s just that I don’t retain them! Nevertheless, there is plenty in there for those of us with no more than a passing interest… such as the fact that a species that normally eats aphids that inhabit pine trees will readily eat aphids of other types… but if they do they do not lay eggs!
The species are all illustrated in colour plates and there are keys to all stages of the ladybirds’ life cycle but I would have liked to have seen them together and perhaps at the beginning of the book to make it easier to use as an ID guide as well as a source of fascinating facts.
These fascinating and favourite insects also carry a great deal of country lore and a little of this would have made it even more accessible.