gmillerf wrote in post #13826499
Anybody got some recommendations for bug field guides that will help find and photograph bugs? I live in Southern Indiana (near Louisville, KY), so I'd be partial to anything that concentrates on species around there.
There's about four million of them on Amazon, so I'm looking to narrow the field.
The 3 Guides I use most for critters in the Eastern US are The Field Guide to Insects and Spiders, Moths of Eastern North America, and Butterflies of the East Coast.
The first book is the one I use the most and is a true field guide, with very good photos and a wide variety of coverage for the most common species of many different critter types. The second book, while considered 'the' authority book on moths, has sucky photos (many of which are in b&w), but it does cover more moth species than any other US moth book in print.
The latter book might not quite extend to the State of Indiana, range-wise, but the quality of photos and information is truly superb, and there will be enough range overlap among the species covered to make it worthwhile IMO. It is a much larger paperback book, and pretty thick, with really excellent photographs, so it may not qualify as a true field guide. However, I personally never 'analyze' what I am looking at in the field anyway. I take my macro shots while I am there, collect the specimen if it's interesting enough, and then do my analysis at home with the macro shot blown-up on my computer screen so I can see the subject detail and meticulously compare it to the book photos. In this respect, the larger book (with corresponding larger/better photos) is preferable IMO.
If you're really serious about your IDs, though, no book is really going to help much on anything but butterflies and the most common of common species. For less common species, you really should contact your State Department of Agriculture for (literally) 'the' state experts. When you call the Dept. of Agriculture in your state, you will learn of multiple scientists working there whose sole function is to conduct agricultural research on (say) beetles, or sucking bugs, or moths, or spiders, etc. and how these animals affect crops, etc. These people will quite literally be 'the' experts in your state and they will be able to offer proof positive IDs like no book ever could.
The only hitch is that these folks are busy men and women, and most will not want to be bothered answering every little bug question you have, but a few of them will, so being able to gain their expert opinions hinges on whether or not you can strike-up a friendship with one of these experts, or more than one, to where the individual will actually answer your questions any time you have one. I was lucky in that I was able to develop a good friendship with 'the' authority on spiders in my state, and spiders are my main interest, but I am also trying to develop relationships with the experts in moths, beetles, etc.
Anyway, for such busy, professional experts to set aside their time to help you, you might want to offer to help them, which you can do by offering to do 'free work' for them, taking photos of their specimens on projects they're working on, etc., in exchange for being able to rely on their expert opinion. Of course, your photos will have to be good enough to interest them, but if they are then, hey, taking time out to photograph the state expert's subjects really isn't 'work' IMO ... as all it does is allow you to take a bunch of photos of arthropod species you probably haven't seen before. To my way of thinking, this is just an added bonus on top of having a truly expert opinion just an email away
Final Note: With some species, even a clear photograph isn't enough sometimes, even when reviewed by an expert, and in those cases the specimen will actually have to be subjected to microscopic analysis for 100% certainty. To circumvent this, with spiders anyway, sometimes I can take a photo of their underside (while they're sitting atop clear glass), so the scientist can view the underparts/genitalia for ID confirmation.