Friday 5: Pretty Insect Photos

I love insect art!  I’ve already talked about some of the insect art pieces I own, so for today’s Friday 5 I’m focusing on books that feature gorgeous insect photography.  Any of these books would make an excellent coffee table book for guests to flip through as you visit and all of them are stunning.  I heartily recommend these 5!

An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles by Arthur Evans and Charles Bellamy

This was the first insect book I wanted solely for the photos.  Don’t get me wrong – Drs. Evans and Bellamy’s text is superb and the book is well worth reading!  When we had to choose an insect book to read in my one entomology course as an undergrad (yep, we did old school book reports in that class!), I went straight for this one.  However, I can’t deny that I initially wanted this book for the photographs.  It’s filled with page after page of gorgeous beetle specimens from around the world, highlighting many unique, bizarre, and beautiful beetles.  I got this book as a Christmas present from my dad about half a year before I went off to grad school to study insects, so it holds a special place in my heart.  It really is an excellent book.  Anyone with a passing interest in entomology should own a copy.

Living Jewels by Poul Beckman

Although it’s another beetle book, Living Jewels is definitely a work of art – written and designed by artists, so no scientists were harmed in the making of the book – and has far less scientific value than Inordinate Fondness.  On the other hand, this oversized book is filled with huge, larger than life beetle photos!  It’s pure eye candy – little text, little attempt to educate the readers about beetle biology.  I doubt if the author and his colleague know much about beetles themselves.  Still, if this book doesn’t make you appreciate the absolute beauty of beetles then nothing will!  I should mention that after the success of his first book (though it’s rather hard to find now…), Beckman put out a sequel, Living Jewels 2.  I personally think the print job on the second book is quite inferior to the first, darker with stark contrasts that make the photographs seem too harsh.  Of course, I bought it anyway, so it’s not all bad…  :)

Night Vision by Joseph Scheer

This is one of my all time favorite insect books!  It features a group of often overlooked insects, the moths, and gives them the limelight they deserve.  The images in the book aren’t exactly photographs; they were produced by scanning moth specimens on a very high-resolution scanner.  The results are amazing, almost too good to believe.  The resolution is so high and the images so crisp that they can be blown up to massive proportions (several feet across) and retain their sharpness!  I bought this book shortly after it was released (I think Amazon recommended it to me – thank you Amazon!) and I was stunned by the quality of the images.  I think everyone should look through this book at least once.  However, if you ever have a chance to see Scheer’s exhibit of huge format moth prints at an art museum, DON’T MISS IT!  It was at my university a few years back and it’s even more amazing than the book.  Didn’t realize that was even possible!

Pheromone by Christopher Marley

I have to admit that in spite of being an entomologist and an insect art lover, I was probably one of the last people to discover Marley’s work.  You may have seen his work featured in calendars, postcard books, and their ilk.  But his book is way better than any of those things!  Like Poul Beckman, Marley is an artist who works with insect specimens.  He travels around the world collecting insects for his pieces, preserves the specimens, and then artfully arranges them into spectacular displays.  What draws me to his work is the precision.  You so rarely see specimens so perfectly arranged, and he’s not even an entomologist!  The book contains a blend of photos of the insects he uses in his artwork as well as photos of the final pieces.  It’s a stunning volume and I really love it.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford one of the pieces featured in the book, but for now I’ll flip through the pages and dream of walls covered with beautiful, perfect insects…

The Smaller Majority by Piotr Naskrecki

While not entirely devoted to insects, this book definitely makes my top 5 list.  Naskrecki is a master macrophotographer as well as a biologist, and you get the best of both worlds in this masterpiece.  The photographs are amazing and the text makes for a great read.  Plus, if you don’t want to read a whole book on insects (maybe you have interests in other invertebrates or amphibians – gasp!), this book gives you a much wider range of subjects than any of the other books I’ve featured here.  Nothing I can say really does it justice though – see for yourself!  This book was at the top of my wish list for Christmas about 5 years ago (so I ask for, and receive, a lot of books – I only bought one of the books on this list for myself!) and I absolutely love it.   I highly recommend it!

These are my five favorite insect photo books.  Anyone else want to add others to the list?  If so, leave a comment below!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © 2011


8 thoughts on “Friday 5: Pretty Insect Photos

  1. I just got started with bug photography but I’m definitely hooked. We don’t have many colourful beetles around here but I still keep finding new and intersting bugs to shoot. I’ll have a look at your recommendations as a source for inspiration. If you like bees I can recommend taking a look at That’s the blog that first got me seriously interested in macro and there are some really awesome portraits of bees to be found there.

  2. I may be biased, but I’d highly recommend 2 books by my adviser, Steve Marshall:

    Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity – literally thousands of insect photos covering a large portion of eastern North America fauna (plus some tropical insects from his varied travels) with detailed natural history notes on almost every family found in North America, plus a user-friendly, illustrated key to insect families! Well worth the money!

    500 Insects – This is like the cream of the crop of cool insect photos. Features a wide array of morphologically interesting insects from all over the world and awesome photos of each (with natural history notes as well).

  3. You know what? I totally love your “Friday 5” thing. I’m so totally going to steal it soon.

    Love all of these. I have (and love) An Inordinate Fondness, which I got initially because of the title and text, but yes, gorgeous pictures. I have to get the rest now!

    I’m in love with my field guides. Butterflies of Arizona, for example, (which I guess you’ll only want if you’re in or near Arizona) has both gorgeous and ridiculously detailed photos. I’ve spent hours staring at the images, trying to distinguish between a Reakirt’s blue and a Ceraunus blue. My husband is quite sure that I’m insane.

    • Thanks! And steal away! I thought I was super clever coming up with the idea, but then I found a whole website called Friday 5 that includes lists on blogs on Fridays, so apparenly it’s not completely original. They’re really fun to write. And I love the field guide you recommended! I don’t use it often as I don’t collect many butterflies, but it is fabulous.

  4. I already own “An Inordinant Fondness for Beetles” and “The Smaller Majority” but will now have to go get “Living Jewels” “Night Visions” and “Pheromone” thank you very much…
    I always said there was no such thing as too many books, but I’m begining to wonder…

    • As the owner of over 1200 books spread over 8 large bookcases, I definitely say there’s no such thing as too many books! :) I need a room in my house to act entirely as a library…

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