Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

July 17, 2006

U of G Prof Publishes 'Insect Collection'

A University of Guelph entomologist has published a new insect book that is so extensive, it’s being called “an insect collection between covers.”

Not only does Steve Marshall’s 700-page Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity cover just about every family of six-legged creatures in eastern North America, but also it includes never-before-seen photographs, such as a species of bee fly that lays its eggs in wasp nests.

“A significant proportion of the images are the first published photos of the species or genera and, in some cases, even the families,” said Marshall, a professor in the Department of Environmental Biology. “The bee fly is one of several species discovered for the first time in Canada in the course of this project.”

The book is the first species-level guide to a vast array of insects beyond the standards of butterflies and dragonflies. In addition to essays dealing with all families of insects, it includes some 28 picture keys, hundreds of illustrations, and 4,000 colour photos displaying insects’ typical behaviours and key characteristics.

“There’s a photograph of almost every family any naturalist will ever see, as well as the most common northeastern North America genera and a significant number of common and conspicuous species,” said Marshall, who oversees the two-million-specimen U of G insect collection.

The book deals mostly with insects found east of the Mississippi River and north of Georgia, including the six provinces east of Manitoba. That area is home to an estimated 100,000 insect species, including about 25,000 in eastern Canada alone. Many of these species are obscure or supremely difficult to identify unless you’re an entomologist intimately acquainted with signature identifying genitalia, he said, but a surprising proportion of the larger or more commonly encountered species can be identified from photographs.

Marshall, whose research focuses on phylogenetic systematics of several fly families, said the book began as an after-hours sideline that became a central pursuit. “Although many new discoveries were made while writing the book, I initiated this project to provide something badly needed by naturalists and students, and I never really thought of it as part of my research program.”

Many Guelph students, graduates and colleagues are credited Marshall’s book for their help with finding and identifying specimens, or for their role in illustration and design of the picture keys. They include Matthias Buck, curator of the insect collection; Steven Paiero, a U of G graduate; Dave Cheung, an undergraduate student; Ian Smith, scientific illustrator in the College of Biological Science; Monika Musial, a fine art student; and Christine Schisler, an instructor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt 519- 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982

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