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Ladybugs of Alberta
Finding the Spots and Connecting the Dots
John Acorn
“Despite what many people think, little ladybugs don’t grow up to be big ladybugs.” —John Acorn Everybody loves a ladybug, and no one is more passionate about these spotted creatures than John Acorn, who has produced this, the first regional ladybug field guide in North America. With comprehensive maps, colour photographs, and illustrations of 75 different species, Acorn educates readers on the beauty and diversity of ladybugs in Alberta. He also explains the impact that introduced species have had on these remarkably diverse insects. Professional entomologists, bug-loving kids, and nature-walk enthusiasts will find ladybug identification enjoyable and rewarding with Acorn’s combination of expertise and humour.
Format:  Trade Paperback
ISBN:  978-0-88864-381-0
Price:  CND$ 29.95, USD$ 29.95, £ 24.99
Discount:  Trade
Subject:  Natural History/Insects
Publication Date:  April 2007
Awards
2008 Book Publishers Association of Alberta
Alberta Book Awards, Book Illustration of the Year
2008 ForeWord Magazine
ForeWord Book of the Year Award, Bronze, Nature
Reviews
“John Acorn loves the creepy crawlies of the world and is an expert on ladybugs. His guide is polished in both style and presentation. The photographs are clear and the colours intense and accurate. The guide opens with a gallery of ‘lesser ladybugs’ of Alberta, followed by a gallery of ‘larger ladybugs.’ The next two chapters focus on what ladybugs are and their lives. The third chapter discusses the history of ladybug study in Alberta. The fourth covers ladybug conservation. The rest of the book is dedicated to species accounts. In this volume, the first regional ladybug field guide in North America, Acorn covers 75 species. Each species account includes a drawing of the ladybug, a distribution map, an explanation of the name origin, description, notes and often a large close-up photograph. It is in this section you see Acorn’s personality coming through. Each ladybug is accompanied by a rhyming couplet. For the micro ladybug: “‘Look at this ladybug!’ says author John, / ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ most readers respond.”
Of the ornate ladybug, he says, ‘Nephus Ornatus is about as ornate / as a bit of dried bird poop on a wrought iron gate.’ In the notes, Acorn speaks in the first person, telling us about his experience with the ladybug. For example, in the notes for the lacustrine ladybug, he tells us, ‘When I first started finding lacustrine ladybugs, I’ll admit that I mistook them for American hairies, not noticing the difference in size.’ Of the ursine anthill ladybug, he says, ‘To be honest, this species puzzles me....’ This an academic work and a field guide. It is well-referenced and contains a glossary, index and checklist. Every academic library that supports entomological research will want to purchase this book. However, when reading the work of someone so passionate about ladybugs, it is hard not to be engaged. Public libraries in western North America will also want to consider adding it to their collections. Highly recommended.”
Sandy Campbell, University of Alberta
“With an Acorn field guide you get a lot more than the usual fare. John’s publisher, the University of Alberta Press, gives John free rein to indulge in his engaging, authoritative, often quirky and humorous writing.... All John’s books include large amounts of introductory material: essays on the lives of the insects in question, the history of their study in Alberta, and invariably some insightful piece on the larger context.... Acorn’s essay (Chapter 4) on the controversy surrounding the effects of alien insects on native ecosystems is scientifically honest, beautifully reasoned, and alone is worth the price of the book. All naturalists should read this chapter, if only to understand a view seldom heard in our community. It persuasively argues against unthinking demonization of alien species and stresses that some of these species offer huge insights into the ways that nature works.... With its beautiful pictures, incisive identification details, and original insights into the biology of ladybugs, it’s a superb contribution to insect identification and natural history writing.”
Rob Cannings, Curator of Entomology, Royal British Columbia Museum, in Discovery, Fall 2008
“This is the third book by John Acorn in a series on the natural history of Alberta insects, and it is an excellent introduction and field guide to ladybugs (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). The book is aimed at the lay audience of Alberta. But even as he presents the ladybug fauna of this one Canadian province, Acorn provides a lot of general information about this family of insects. Many of the species featured in the book, for example, are widely distributed throughout large parts of North America. The drawings and photographs that illustrate these species are outstanding, and the general layout of this well-produced book immediately draws the reader in. Acorn writes engagingly (at turns light and witty or provocative and profound), and he draws deeply on his many years of ladybug collecting and naturalizing (and tasting!). Each of these strengths allows him to reach and educate a broad audience, with plenty of material to offer to amateur enthusiast and hard-core professional alike.... A set of strongly synthetic books and treatments of ladybugs has been published over the years, drawing many of us into the study of these insects. As a richly illustrated and informative North American field guide, Acorn’s book has a unique style and approach. It complements the other introductions to the ladybugs and should draw many more readers to this family of insects. With its wealth of information and its highly reader-friendly format, this book would be equally suitable for extension, teaching, research, and recreational activities, for all those seeking to learn more about ladybugs within and beyond Alberta.”
Edward W. Evans, Department of Biology, Utah State University, American Entomology. Vol. 54, No. 3, Fall 2008
“This is an important book about insects for naturalists. It has field credibility. Acorn reviewed and understands the writings of the experts on lady beetle identification and ecology in North America. Acorn studied the specimens that collectors in Alberta deposited in collections. But most importantly, he was in the field in Alberta chasing and watching and photographing lady beetles. The result is a guide, written by an expert, which will be valuable before someone starts chasing lady beetles and will continue to provide insights as a person’s expertise grows. And it is accessible; virtually anyone will be able to use it. What can you do with this book? First and foremost it is possible to identify the lady beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs, ladybird beetles, Coccinellidae) that live in Alberta [from] the combination of excellent colour drawings, photographs, plus key features highlighted in text.... In addition to identification and species accounts, there are substantial sections on ecology, behaviour, and history of coccinellid study in Alberta. The hot topic of the influence of introduced species on native species is attacked head on.... The style deserves special mention. It is highly credible, yet at the same time there is a breath of whimsy and fireside chattiness. A fine example is the description of taste-testing. You will not look at a brightly coloured lady beetle the same after you read this.... The identification sections are worth the whole price of the book. The discussion of introduced species is worth the whole price of the book. The description of how to taste a ladybug to assess its palatability is worth the whole price of the book.... Compilations often function as a catalyst for a quantum leap in interest and new findings by curious naturalists. I predict this book will provide another great example in western Canada.”
David McCorquodale, Department of Biology, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, vol. 120
“This is much more than just a guide to identification of Coccinellidae in Alberta. It introduces the reader to the natural history of the group, to ecological aspects of invasive species, and to Acorn’s slightly quirky sense of humor, along with providing excellent photographic illustrations (most by Acorn himself) of the various species and a convenient set of ‘galleries’ allowing a quick comparison of what you might have found in your net (or your bottle, or on your shirt). Although the title suggests the focus of the book is Alberta, Acorn’s general chapters, and particularly the distribution maps showing all of North America, insure a broader appeal. Readers in the Great Plains states and the prairie provinces will certainly find this a useful reference. The fact that this appears to be the first popular book treating this group in North America suggest it may gain an even wider audience.... Other topics the author addresses will be of great interest to gardeners, naturalists, and simply the curious.... As usual, Acorn has done a particularly good job of translating the dry prose of scientific literature to allow one to understand what has and hasn’t been demonstrated through experimental work.”
R.W. Longair, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Great Plains Research, Vol. 18, No. 2, Fall 2008
“John Acorn’s Ladybugs of Alberta is an elegantly produced and welcome addition to the bookshelf of popular guides on Coleoptera. It is beautifully designed, printed on glossy and durable paper stock, robustly perfect-bound, and printed in colour throughout. There are many excellent photographs (mostly taken by Acorn) and colour drawings of each species. The layout and design of the book is clear, well considered, and engaging. At 6”
and 9”
trim-size it is plausibly ‘field guide’ sized, yet attractive enough that it could pass as a coffee-table book. All in all, this book is a notable achievement.”
Christopher Majka, The Coleopterists Bulletin, Vol. 61, September 2007
“A few years ago I discovered that if I put a John Acorn book in an obvious place in my living room, it almost always got picked up and read by other members of my family.... I can easily visualize myself with my grandson this summer catching ladybugs, counting their spots and then running for John Acorn’s book to see what the bug’s name is. We’ve already done the same exercise with damselflies. I can hardly wait until Acorn comes out with an itsy-bitsy spider book.”
Susan Jones, St. Albert Gazette, May 16, 2007
“Have you ever dressed your child as a centipede for Halloween? Would you patronize a gardening store with a ten-foot fibreglass horsefly as its mascot? Would you delight in watching a grasshopper crawl up your arm? Likely not. But if I was instead speaking of ladybugs, it might be different.... University of Alberta entomologist John Acorn begins Ladybugs of Alberta by exploring our rare affinity for ladybugs. The bulk of this field guide consists of colourful, detailed photos, illustrations and descriptions.... But Ladybugs is more than a handy insect identifier; as the author notes, it’s the first North American guide to ladybugs. Acorn writes passionately about ladybug life cycles and current ladybug research and even delves into some of the controversies surrounding invasive vs. native species.... Acorn has an interesting take: ‘The term “native”
has no real meaning in biology,’ he writes.... There is no such thing as ‘the way nature intended.’ Acorn’s exploration of a controversial topic gives this book unexpected depth.”
Evan Osenton, Alberta Views, September 2007
“As an author, John has incredible interpretive ability and his latest book explores an attractive yet poorly covered group—the ladybugs. This book abounds with John’s excellent photographs as well as his engaging and entertaining writing style.... ‘Introduced Ladybugs and Conservation,’ is an exceptional piece on introduced species and how the effects on the native fauna can be overblown. He also presents a fresh perspective about how non-native species are demonized that I think all naturalists should read.... Overall this is a book that should be on every naturalist’s bookshelf whether or not they consider themselves entomologists. It is a rare example of a book that has the ability to inspire young and old to become ‘Nature Nuts’.”
Jason J. Dombroskie, Blue Jay, June 2007
“Hercules, blotch-backed, twice-stabbed, once squashed and flying saucer. The names are as evocative as they are unusual and an interesting if not surprising factoid in the world of the insects we know as ‘ladybugs’.... After reading Acorn’s newest book, number three in his Alberta insect series, it is impossible to walk away thinking that the red ladybugs with the distinctive black dots are the end-all be-all of ladybugs. While they may be the more common ladybugs found in this region, saying ‘seen one, seen ‘em all’, is so far from the truth it’s like saying all alpine wildflowers are the same. In fact, the range and size of ladybugs is staggering. Some ladybugs are tiny, like the micro ladybug at 1.0 millimetre, and about the thickness of dime, while others are massive (at least by ladybug standards), like the wonderfully-named mealybug destroyer at 4.5 mm. They also come in a broad range of colours and patterns, beyond the red-and-black. Some are entirely black or, like the twice-stabbed ladybug, black with a red dot on each wing cover.”
Rob Alexander, Rocky Mountain Outlook, May 24, 2007
“‘Ladybugs are one of Alberta’s most charismatic species for a simple reason,’ says biologist John Acorn. ‘They’re simply cute!’... More specifically, ladybugs have rounded contours, short legs, big eyes and wonderful colour patterns.... Between species, ladybugs vary—most are red with black spots but others are black, orange, pink and yellow in colour. And their names, such as the lugubrious ladybug, the twice-stabbed ladybug and the poorly known ladybug, are just as diverse. Acorn’s book is filled with information about each and photos....”
Caitlin Crawshaw, Folio, May 11, 2007
"Not only does John Acorn's most recent book, Ladybugs of Alberta showcase some of Alberta's most charismatic beetles, but it also draws attention (and question) to some of the issues at the forefront of conservation today. Whichever of these reasons makes you pick up the book, you won't be disappointed.”
Sarah McPike, Nature Alberta, Fall 2007
"Ladybird beetles, affectionately and commonly called ladybugs, are revered for their aphid-eating prowess. 'They just walk up to them and eat them like a little green hamburger,' John Acorn [said].”
Henneke Brooymans, Edmonton Journal, March 9, 2008
"In the third volume of his series, Acorn (U. of Alberta) presents the only popular guide to ladybugs in any region of North America. He describes a ladybug's life and the historic and current study of ladybugs in Alberta, and discusses introduced ladybugs and conservation. The final chapters survey the lesser and the larger of the 75 species, providing information on the meaning and pronunciation of the names, identification, distribution, and other matters. Color photographs abound, and a complete gallery of ladybugs with relevant page numbers acts as an index.”
SciTech Book News 2007
"Seventy-five species of ladybugs are documented with illustrations....John reveals his talent for making learning about nature fun....Beautiful beetles and provocative philosophy--What more could you want from a field guide?!”
Sarah McPike, Nature Alberta, Fall 2007
John Acorn will talk about bugs at the Ellis Bird Farm Bug Jamboree, August 11, 2007.
"John, thanks for another great natural history book! Whether or not you're a 'beetle guy or gal,' John Acorn is worth a read. Science can be fun! So can conservation.”
Dan Stoker
"This sort of book represents a real sea-change in entomology, and your ladybug book is sure to stimulate a whole new generation of bugwatchers.”
Steven Marshall, Professor, Environmental Biology, University of Guelph
"Words cannot express our joy!! We who are 'nature nuts' are bugged out about this new book. The staff here at the Police Point Nature Centre just can not wait to get our hands on the new book, and start checking out all the 'ladies.'”
Valerie Martins, Nature Interpreter, Medicine Hat Interpretive Program
“Great news!! Ladybugs of Alberta is out in print. This magnificent book by our very own John Acorn is published by University of Alberta Press and is available ($29.95) at http://www.uap.ualberta.ca/UAP.asp?LID=41&bookID=682. John treats all 75 species of ladybugs in Alberta, including the little tiny ones that few people ever notice. This is more than three times as many species as his two other books in the series (Tiger Beetles and Damselflies) and the book is packed with plenty of original information that clearly makes this John’s most scholarly book to date. The style is highly readable, with excellent sections not only on the identification and life history of ladybugs (=ladybird beetles), but also thought-provoking essays on the way in which we think about “alien invaders”
and use ladybugs in gardening. This is the first popular guide ever produced on ladybugs in North America, and is sure to have a huge impact well outside of Alberta. Ladybugs of Alberta is a treat all around. No one interested in natural history, entomology, gardening, or integrated pest management should be without it.”
Felix Sperling, Curator, E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum, University of Alberta

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