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The Book of Caterpillars

A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species from around the World

The weird and wonderful world of insects boasts some of the strangest creatures found in nature, and caterpillars are perhaps the most bizarre of all. While most of us picture caterpillars as cute fuzzballs munching on leaves, there is much more to them than we imagine. A caterpillar’s survival hinges on finding enough food and defending itself from the array of natural enemies lined up to pounce and consume. And the astounding adaptations and strategies they have developed to maximize their chances of becoming a butterfly or moth are only just beginning to be understood, from the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar that resembles a small snake to the Eastern Carpenter Bee Hawkmoth caterpillar that attempts to dissuade potential predators by looking like a diseased leaf.
The Book of Caterpillars unveils the mysteries of six hundred species from around the world, introducing readers to the complexity and beauty of these underappreciated insects. With the advent of high-quality digital macrophotography, the world of caterpillars is finally opening up. The book presents a wealth of stunning imagery that showcases the astonishing diversity of caterpillar design, structure, coloration, and patterning. Each entry also features a two-tone engraving of the adult specimen, emphasizing the wing patterns and shades, as well as a population distribution map and table of essential information that includes their habitat, typical host plants, and conservation status. Throughout the book are fascinating facts that will enthrall expert entomologists and curious collectors alike.
A visually rich and scientifically accurate guide to six hundred of the world’s most peculiar caterpillars, this volume presents readers with a rare, detailed look at these intriguing forms of insect life. 

656 pages | 2400 color plates | 8 1/2 x 10 1/2 | © 2017

Biological Sciences: Biology--Systematics, Natural History

Reference and Bibliography


“If you know a true natural history nerd, this is the gift to choose.”

Wall Street Journal

"The caterpillar is the immature stage for the moth and butterfly, transforming into the winged adult via pupation. The 600 varieties represented here comprise a small fraction of 160,000 known species. Nevertheless, the cosmopolitan coverage of representative taxa does begin to capture the diversity of these insects while elucidating their lesser-known, immature forms. In a concise introduction, James defines caterpillars, their survival role, and how they contribute to the natural ecosystem, as well as the diverse ways in which humans interact with them. The bulk of the work consists of single-page species templates organized by family; these provide geographical distribution, habitat, host plants, notes, and conservation status, as well as a couple of informative paragraphs and a life-size color photograph of the caterpillar. Some species also are illustrated by a larger photograph that provides rich detail. The format, size, and weight of the book precludes most users from taking it to the field, but the overall editing is superb. The overview of caterpillars is current, necessarily succinct, and may find the largest audience in those wanting an introduction to this relatively overlooked insect form. Highly recommended." 


"Lovely images are accompanied by two-tone engravings of caterpillar adults, a population distribution map, and details about their natural history and conservation. Many caterpillar books are either part of larger butterfly identification discussions and guides or are geared to novices and younger readers; but The Book of Caterpillars's in-depth and scientifically accurate examination makes for a top pick for college-level collections strong in entomology."

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Table of Contents

What is a caterpillar?
From eggs to pupation
The miracle of metamorphosis
Voracious eaters
Caterpillar defenses
Caterpillars and people
Research and conservation
The caterpillars
Classification of the Lepidoptera
Index by common name
Index by scientific name
Notes on contributors

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