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Nature Insects & Spiders


The Natural History and Diversity of Coleoptera

by (author) Stephen A. Marshall

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2018
Insects & Spiders
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2018
    List Price

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An accessible but comprehensive overview of beetles, illustrated with 4,500 photographs.

Among Stephen Marshall's many other natural history titles are Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity and Flies: The Natural History and Diversity of Diptera, two of the most respected books on the insect world published in the last 20 years. More admirable than the books' rigorous science, however, is that they are wholly suitable for a lay audience, including student readers from high school on. The books have been adopted as classroom texts and assigned as required reading at the university level and are on the references shelves of many practicing entomologists.

In Beetles: The Natural History and Diversity of Coleoptera, Marshall has again applied his deep knowledge of the insect world. Comprehensive and packed with 27 pages of richly illustrated keys and 4,500 color illustrations, it provides the reader with a colorful and enjoyable introduction to the natural history of a huge group of organisms, along with an overview of the diversity of fascinating families included in the group. The subject of this book is an enormous one, since the beetles, or Coleoptera, include almost 400,000 named species.

Marshall opens with a description of what makes a beetle a beetle, and then introduces the natural history of the order with copious examples and explanations.

Part one of the book includes:

  • Life Histories of Beetles: Form and Function: Eggs; Larvae; Pupae, Prepupae and Cocoons; Adults; Courtship and Mating Behaviors
  • Defense and Deception: Tanks, Tricks and Coleopteran; Chemical Warfare; Brilliance and Bioluminescence in the Beetles
  • Freshwater and Marine Beetles: Freshwater beetles; Marine beetles
  • Beetle Associations with Fungi, Dung and Carrion: Beetles and Fungi; Beetles and Dung; Beetles and Dead Bodies
  • Beetles, Plants and Plant Products: Beetles and Flowers; Phytophagy and Beetle Diversity; Aposematic Beetles and Their Plant Hosts; Beetles as Agricultural and Garden Pests; Beetles and Biological Control of Weeds; Beetles and Trees
  • Beetles and Other Animals: Dangerous Beetles; Coleoptera and Culture; Beetles Indoors; Rare, Endangered and Threatened Beetles; Beetles, Birds and Wild Mammals; Beetles and Other Invertebrates.

Part two of Beetles is a guided tour of the diversity of the order, with fascinating stops for all of the world's 180 or so families of beetles as well as most of the significant subfamilies. Thousands of photos, almost all taken in the field by the author, are used to capture the range of form and function in each family, with pages of examples of the popular groups -- such as fireflies, tiger beetles, jewel beetles -- but also with unique photographs of little-known groups ranging from long-lipped beetles to the rarest rove beetles. Essential information about importance, range, behavior and biology is provided for each group, and easily used photographic keys to most families are provided for those wishing to use the book as an identification guide.

The profusely illustrated keys in Beetles, linked to the unprecedented photographic coverage of the world's beetle families and subfamilies, enable readers to identify most families of beetles quickly and accurately, and to readily access information about each family as well as hundreds of distinctive genera and species.

Like its companion titles, Insects and Flies, Beetles will be welcomed by the scientific, academic and naturalist communities, including the next generation of students of entomology.


About the author

Contributor Notes

Stephen A. Marshall is a professor of entomology in the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario. He has discovered hundreds of taxa new to science and published over 200 papers on insect systematics and biodiversity. When he is not working in the University of Guelph Insect Collection (Canada's oldest insect collection) he can usually be found in his bug-rich backyard on the banks of the Grand River near his hometown of Fergus, Ontario.


Editorial Reviews

Beetles are everywhere, an unsurprising fact when we consider they are one of the most common living things on Earth. Marshall provides broad and specific details about beetles around the world. He also shares his own experiences in this first-person narrative. Part 1 considers beetles in general--their biology and history--while the second part examines beetles throughout the world and how they differ... Those interested in learning to identify beetles will find the volume extremely helpful. Chapters seven through ten break down beetles into family groups, with plenty of photographs illustrating the groups described. The end material, which includes information on collecting and preserving beetles, also provides thoughtful tips for photographing them. As the author is also the photographer of many of the pictures featured, the advice is welcome. For educated, devoted entomologists.

Library Journal

The new Coleoptera book takes the approach of expansive detail, richly illustrated, all in service to functionality. Almost every page is supplemented with Marshall's full colour, macro photography of beetles... At a total of 4,500 photographs, this may actually be the most illustrated of Marshall's books to date. This emphasis on photography, however, does not come at the expense of scientific detail... "Beetles" is a full-on textbook, large enough to sit on the desk, next to the microscope, for weeks or years. The beauty of the photographs could lead it to be placed on coffee tables anywhere. The keys, descriptions, and illustrations make this book a valuable tool for interested entomologists, like myself, with less experience putting a family name to every Coleopteran to come across their desk. Perhaps most importantly, however, with a passionate introduction to the wonder and diversity of beetles, clear instructions on how to obtain beetles in the wild, and then a powerful tool to identify what you find, this book will undoubtedly launch thousands of future beetle research programmes.

Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada

One can open this book anywhere in the almost 800 pages and be met with beautiful photographs of beetles, many of them taken in the field; alone, these would make the book a centrepiece on any naturalist's coffee table. However, the huge volume of information in the text will make this a go-to reference book for even the most ardent coleopteris... A book of this quality and magnitude is rare; there should be no second thoughts about getting this for yourself or other insect enthusiast.

Canadian Field-Naturalist

Honorable Mention, 2019 Dartmouth Medal for Most Outstanding Reference Work Beetles: The Natural History and Diversity of Coleoptera represents the culmination of entomologist Stephen Marshall's research. Its rich illustrations, comprehensive coverage, and useful essays make this a valuable resource.

American Library Association

My first reaction to receiving this volume is that it is a very weighty tome... But, on opening the pages, I realised that it is the extravaganza of stunning colour images of beetles from around the planet that is the real weight of this remarkable book. Lavish illustration on this scale is amazing... This book is however not just about its images. It provides a comprehensive overview of the world's beetles. It is a remarkable introduction to the wealth of beetles that our planet has to offer.

British Journal of Entomology and Natural History

This comprehensive, hefty, and detailed overview of beetles introduces readers to the history, habits, and habitats of the order Coleoptera. More than half the book is devoted to a family-by-family profile of the various species. For the armchair enthusiast and general collector, the book includes a chapter on how to collect, preserve, and photograph beetles. Also included is a key that provides images along with features to aid in identifying specific beetle species. Detailed information is interspersed with funny anecdotes by the author, including the fact that the U.S. was accused of using beetles as weapons of war during the WWII, and the requisite reference to the Beatles. A section on beetles in literature is also included. The text is replete with well-annotated images and stunning pictures and concludes with a list of references, further readings, and a thorough index. Marshall's (Flies, 2012) work is certain to appeal to, engage, and inform anyone with an interest in entomology, especially in public libraries.


It will be a mistake to assume that this book is just a photographic guide to the various beetle families. The first part of the book is almost 180 pages long and includes details on topics such as mating behavior, defense, bioluminescence, beetle associations with fungi and plants, beetles as pests, beetle development, endangered beetles, and beetles and culture. And while every single page is indeed beautifully illustrated with high definition color images, the writing is also succinct and well researched... There are more than 500 pages of beautifully photographed beetles, with astonishing emphasis on representing even the scarcest of the families and subfamilies. The coverage of the book is global and just this fact alone makes it a worthwhile purchase to anybody with a remote interest in coleopterology... The identification keys to the beetle families are found in the third part of the book, along with a chapter on collecting, preserving, and photographing beetles. To me, these identification keys are the hidden gem of this book. While the author is modest to mention that they are intended for the general naturalist, I cannot imagine a professional Coleopterist not using them for routine identifications... Beetles: The Natural History and Diversity of Coleoptera is not an inexpensive book. However, it is definitely worth every penny. This is the first book I will recommend from now on to anyone interested in beetles, be that a professional entomologist, a student, or a naturalist.

The Coleopterists Bulletin

With almost 400,000 known species, beetles (order Coleoptera) represent the largest and most diverse group of living animals. As Marshall (Univ. of Guelph) emphasizes, the life histories and survival strategies of these remarkable insects are highly varied and intriguing. In this celebration of beetle diversity, he gathers together a wealth of information about these fascinating insects. Following a general discussion on fundamental aspects of beetle biology, Marshall examines the numerous families and subfamilies of beetles. Consideration is given to evolutionary relationships among different groups and to select features of natural history. Discussion is global in scope, with representative examples of fascinating lifestyles drawn from around the world. Marshall does an excellent job highlighting the rich diversity of these insects. An illustrated key to the major families of beetles is a useful addition. A brief discussion on collecting and photographing beetles is also included. This interesting, well-written volume is richly illustrated with thousands of high-quality photographs. Jargon is kept to a minimum, making the book largely accessible to general readers. It will be of considerable value to both professional and amateur entomologists, as well as to anyone with a serious interest in beetles. Summing up: Essential. All readers.


Other titles by Stephen A. Marshall