A Dazzle of Dragonflies (Texas A & M
Press, $39.95) is neither a field guide nor a scientific treatise,
although the authors, Forrest L. Mitchell and James L. Lasswell, are
entomologists at an agricultural research station in central Texas.
More than a hundred dragonflies are pictured in this coffee-table
book: Jeweled specimens decorate almost every page. The volume was
designed to delight and inform amateur enthusiasts, and the
remarkably detailed photographs do just that. Many of the images
were ingeniously captured by putting living dragonflies on a flatbed
scanner. The wonderfully written text is rich with detail and
personal stories. It gives a comprehensive overview of the natural
history of the insect, delves into Japanese folklore and poetry
(which feature dragonflies prominently) and discusses
300-million-year-old fossils of giant dragonflies with
two-and-a-half-foot wingspans. The long chapter about watching
dragonflies is divided into separate sections for each family, and
the instructions for viewing describe distinguishing traits,
behaviors and habitats. The authors have condensed their hard-earned
lessons and tricks for capturing dragonfly images into a crash
course on practical photography in the field. They also include
detailed principles for constructing water gardens so that you can
have your own local squadron of flashing predators. Pictured
(top to bottom) are a flame skimmer (Libellula
saturata); a fossil from the Permian period, of Tupus
permianus, found in Elmo, Kansas, in 1903; and a female
rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana).—Chris Brodie
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