Guess what arrived today? My first copy of the new moth guide! Yaaaaaay!
The books are all printed overseas, and they’re all on a container ship somewhere on the Pacific at the moment, but the printer sends a few copies by air to the publisher so they can review them for quality (and start distributing them to the authors :), etc. This is one of the copies that came by air; the rest will arrive at the publisher’s about a month from now, then will be checked and inventoried and distributed and will be in bookstores maybe the week before release.
So you guys still have to wait. I’m sorry. But I can share with you some peeks at the book in advance! Complete with goofy faces. Because that’s just how excited I am. (Also, forgive the photo quality; these were taken with my webcam.)
For example. My name! On a book!
Check out the width of that sucker. It’s 1.25 inches thick. That’s 611 pages of amazing mothy goodness.
And between my fingers there is the species checklist at the back of the book. It’s 38 pages long. That’s a lot of moths, folks! I lost count along the way, but I think we were just a couple species shy of 1500 total in the book. Very close to 2000 images. (Which I clipped out from their backgrounds by hand. Every single one. Whew. Thank goodness they look so good in the book!)
The title page! I love this photo. It was taken by Dave, in his yard, and was a last-minute addition to the book.
Look! There’s my name again! Also, the map of area covered. Quite a number of the species in the book will be present in other parts of the continent, though, so the guide is potentially useful outside of the range depicted here. You just won’t have the benefit of range maps with the species accounts.
Here’s the opening page of the How To Use This Book section. All of the sections have full-page images of different species of moths, like this. They’re nearly all Dave’s photos, moths he’s caught and placed on a natural-looking log or branch for photographing, and they look really great. The top of the sections also have those little square photos, also of moths in natural settings. All of them have the species name given, so you know which species the moth is. (This was my mom‘s suggestion. Thanks, Mom. :)
That’s me! It’s the only photo of a person in the entire guide (no author photos). That’s my blacklight setup from… I think that was taken at my parents’ old house, actually, the place in Halton county where I grew up. I still run blacklight bulbs occasionally, but mostly now I use mercury vapour at home. They don’t make as interesting a photo, though. I’ll probably have both with me on the book tour.
The How To section has information on how to go about attracting and photographing moths as well as the necessary info on how to read and interpret the guide. Also tips on how to start learning to identify moths. It’s relatively short and quick to read, at 18 pages. So I hope you all read it, because I put a lot of time and careful consideration into writing it. :)
These are the front endpapers. The diagrams are also in the How To section, but because it’s a pain to have to flip through the introduction in order to look up terminology, I requested these be put here at the front, where they’re easy to flip to. On the left are structural terminology, on the right are those for patterns. A number of these get referred to regularly in the text accounts.
And these are the back endpapers. We don’t have every type of moth displayed here, but we do have many. The idea is a lot of moths can be quickly identified to group by shape/size alone. Some are very distinctive (scoopwings, for instance, or plume moths). So this provides a quick reference to give you a place (or places) to start browsing, if you’re not sure.
All of the measurements in the book are given in millimeters because so many of the species are so small that inches don’t work well. On the inside of the back cover (barely visible in this photo) there’s a ruler printed with both centimeters/millimeters and inches, so you can quickly look up sizes.
On to the identification pages!
Each family is headed up with a paragraph describing general family characteristics and often mentions habits and/or host preferences, if there are some that are particular to the group. Where two families are on the same page, as here, the identification plate is separated into two panels.
Although it’s hard to see on this particular page, you’ll notice on the next few there’s a gray silhouette beside one of the images on the plate. This is showing the moth’s approximate size in real life, so you can get an idea how big these things really are.
One of the things that makes this book unique over the few guides that have come before (besides that they’re all in natural resting poses here; most other guides show pinned/spread moths) is the number of micromoth species we’ve included. These are all the species that come in the first half of taxonomic lists, basically the moth equivalent of non-passerine birds (the first half of a bird field guide, all the birds that don’t sing songs). For the most part they’re small, hence the “micro”.
Not very much is known about most micromoth species, except for a few that are commercial pests (crops/forestry). So there are no range maps for these species. There are, however, flight period bars, those coloured bars beside each species’ name. Under each is a black line that corresponds to the time of year the moth can be found, and the three colours in the bar represent the three seasons of spring, summer and fall, roughly three months each.
Here’re macromoths – the second half of the taxonomic list, and, for the most part, larger than the micromoths. These ones mostly do all have range maps, information being much easier to come by for these. A large part of the reason for this has simply been the paucity of field guides that include micromoths – hobbyists actually contribute quite a lot of what we know about the distribution and other information for species. Some macromoths are still lacking in this department – for instance, the Obtuse Brocade, here, didn’t have enough information for me to be able to extrapolate a range map with any degree of confidence. Hopefully there will be future editions of the guide, and we’ll be able to create maps for these species then, as more people join the hobby.
Not the greatest photo, though I blame that mostly on the limitations of the webcam. But trying to point out here the Peterson arrows. It was unfortunate timing, but Dave ended up being away for most of the period when the manuscript was at the stage where we insert the arrows (it wasn’t something that could be planned for, either, really), so I ended up doing this mostly all myself. And let me tell you, on 1500 species, there are a lot of arrows.
Although there are plenty of species of moth that are so distinct they don’t really need the arrows, there are also lots that look so similar the arrows will be invaluable in helping you separate them out. For instance, the hydriomenas. That face I’m making here? I wore that for about two hours, seriously, as I sorted out specifically which features I should be pointing the arrows at. It involved several emails back and forth with moth expert Chris Schmidt of the Canadian National Collection (he was awesome with his time and expertise – you rock, Chris!), and lots of studying of images he sent me, ones I had, and ones online. As you can tell from this plate and the fact that each species has multiple images, there’s a fair bit of variation. But I finally got it figured out. You lucky souls don’t have to worry about it; the arrows are already there for you. :)
The timing of the release could hardly be much better – right at the start of the new mothing season! It’s still winter here, but the first moths will be arriving soon – potentially just two weeks from now. That moth I’m pointing to, that’s my bet for first of the year for me – Morrison’s Sallow. All of the species on this page are contenders for first-of-season, though. (That’s my you-can-bet-on-it face, which actually works better when you can see me nodding knowingly.)
So there you go! A quick preview of the new field guide to moths. I honestly can’t wait till the release date (April 17! Two months!) so all of you can get your hands on a copy, too, because it looks great. Dave and I are both really happy with how it turned out, and I hope you will be, too.
You can currently preorder the guide from most retailers (online, though I think if you go into your local indie bookstore they’ll take orders, too…). If you want a signed copy, there are buttons on my sidebar or on this page where you can order one directly from me.