I never expected to become interested in mosquitoes. The ones I observed around central Geelong seemed dull compared to many other types of insects. This changed when I started following one of the co-authors, Dr Cameron Webb, on twitter. He frequently tweets about science communication, entomology and mosquitoes. I bought this book on a whim after Dr Webbs tweets had piqued my interest. It’s ended up becoming one of my favourite books in this series.
The introductory content is very user friendly.
The introductory chapters cover a wide range of information targeted at different audiences. There is information on the biology, habitats, publish health risks, controlling mosquitoes near homes and how to collect mosquitoes. This means that amateurs, ecologists and public health officials can all get a solid background. Enthusiasts and citizen scientists don’t need to read all of these chapters; however, they are a useful reference.
The main criticism is the two graphics that detail the morphology and general structure of mosquitoes. It would have been helpful if these were accompanied by better descriptions. Multiple graphics are crammed into two pages with little context. Later, it becomes evident that these are visual representations of features that are mentioned in the species profiles. It does make it slightly more difficult for beginners.
The authors described this book as ‘a pictorial guide to some of the most important, most interesting and most beautiful mosquito species in Australia.’ Around 80 of Australia’s 300 species are featured. I was disappointed that they didn’t include more species; especially as the guide was just 217 pages. However, I can understand the need to limit it to the ones most commonly found or of importance.
1-2 pages are dedicated to each species. The profiles cover the species physical description, habitat, distribution and pest status. Readers will likely need to refer to the morphological descriptions until you get the hang of the terminology.
The number of pictures varies. In some cases, you get just one picture of an adult. In others, you also get the picture of the larva and pupa. These images sufficed for me; however, I’ve only used the guide to identify about 5 species.
The habitat information is pretty comprehensive, considering the limited space. These sections cover:
- uncommon places to find them
- whether little is known about the dispersal range
- how far the species will, or won’t, travel from its larval habitat
Do I recommend it?
I wouldn’t recommend it for most beginners. It pains me to say that, as it is a great book and is very user friendly.
Mosquitoes aren’t as easy to observe in the wild as other species, such as beetles and spiders. In many cases, you will have to collect the eggs and larvae to rear the mosquitoes before being able to identify it. There are also some types of traps you can use. The chapter on how to collect, rear and photograph mosquitoes discusses these in detail.
Alternately, you can try to get a photo of a mosquito while one is biting you. From experience, it can be tricky trying to get a clear macro photo of all the identifiable features.
Some may find it too overwhelming to obtain the mosquitoes to identify them. I would recommend that beginners choose a species that is easier to observe, especially if it’s their first time trying to identify insects.
I would highly recommend it for those who have an existing interest in mosquitoes and want to try to collect them. It’s a brilliant guide if you are prepared for the extra work.