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Borror and DeLong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects

Borror and DeLong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects  



  • Norman F. Johnson
  • Charles A. Triplehorn


  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Brooks Cole; 7 edition (May 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0030968356
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.79 pounds


Book Description

First published in the 1950s by the late James Borror and Dwight Moore DeLong, this classic text, INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF INSECTS 7TH EDITION, combines the study of insects with clear and current insect identification. In this new edition (available in a bundle with InfoTrac College Edition), Johnson and Triplehorn supply updated information on phylogeny using systematics while adding a greater emphasis on insect biology and evolution. This greater concentration on insect systematics necessitated many content changes including an added chapter for a newly described order, the Mantophasmatodea, as well as a new chapter reclassifying Order Homoptera (Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Hoppers Psyllids) into Order Hemiptera. Nearly every order has been modified, sometimes substantially, to reflect new discoveries and scientific hypotheses. Many new families have been added throughout the book, some reflecting revised classifications, but many are the result of the discovery of new groups within the United States and Canada, particularly from the New World tropics. These include the families Platystictidae (Odonata), Mackenziellidae (Collembola), Mantoididae (Mantodea), and Fauriellidae (Thysanoptera). The results of molecular analyses are beginning to substantively contribute to the development of a robust and predictive classification. Thus, the phylogeny of insects has changed drastically from the last edition due to the incorporation of molecular data. The most conspicuous of these changes, for example, is the recognition that the order Strepsiptera is most closely related to the true flies (Diptera), rather than to the Coleoptera. Since it was first published in the 1950s, this text has played an important role in understanding and preserving the diversity of the insect world. This title’s long history, coupled with the authors’ passion for currency and accuracy, make it once again the classic text and reference. 

About the Author(s)

Norman F. Johnson is a professor of biology at Ohio State University and curator of the Ohio State University insect collection. His research interests include the systematics of parasitic Hymenoptera and in particular the Proctotrupoidea. His focus to date has been on the Scelionidae, a speciose group important as biological control agents of their hosts. In 1992 he assumed the position of director of the OSU Insect Collection. Charles A. Triplehorn is emeritus faculty at Ohio State University and his broad interests include systematics and biogeography of Coleoptera. His research is primarily on the large family Tenebrionidae, especially those of the Western Hemisphere. Since his retirement from Ohio State in 1992, he has concentrated on two major projects: a revision of the genus Eleodes and of the Neotropical Diaperini. Triplehorn is the former president of the American Entomological Society.  


Still an essential insect text despite a half-hearted update, August 5, 2004

Borror and Delong’s weighty "Introduction to the Study of Insects" enters its 7th edition as the standard text for students of North American insect taxonomy. This latest edition is brought up to date by Charles Triplehorn and Norman Johnson after a 15 year gap.

As in earlier editions, Borror and DeLong is a comprehensive survey of North American insect diversity, containing identification keys for the insects and other arthropods along with brief overviews of each family and tips for collection and specimen preparation. Keys are mostly at the order and family levels of the Linnean hierarchy, with subfamily keys presented for select groups. This text is not a field guide; many groups are not illustrated, or are represented only by line drawings of particular parts of their anatomy. Rather, it is best used as a laboratory reference, a single-volume source for identifying insects and spiders to family. No other single reference has the breadth of this text, so Borror and DeLong should retain its place on the shelf of any serious entomologist.

"Introduction to the Study of Insects" also contains chapters on insect ecology, physiology, and systematics, but these are brief. More appropriate texts for these areas are available elsewhere (for instance, Gullan and Cranston’s "An Outline of Entomology".)

The 7th edition has been sorely needed. A recent wealth of DNA sequence data and rapid advances in the methodology and philosophy of systematics have produced a flowering of research on insect relationships. As taxonomic improvements accumulated, the 6th edition- the only resource of its kind- had grown increasingly out of touch with the state of the field. So it should come as no surprise that the most noticeable changes in the new edition (aside from the leafy green cover and smaller font size of the text) are in the classifications. Gone is the order Homoptera, sunk at long last into Hempitera. A number of families have disappeared into synonymy (e.g., Anthophoridae into Apidae), while others have been split out (e.g., Stenopelmatidae from Gryllacrididae). Other changes include a completely new beetle key, a considerably improved treatment of spiders, and the inclusion of a newly-discovered order of African insects, Mantophasmatodea.

Triplehorn and Johnson unfortunately are uneven in adopting taxonomic updates across groups. For instance, the wasp family Sphecidae is retained in spite of a long-standing consensus among Hymenopterists that it does not represent a natural group, while other groups like the calyptrate fly family Fanniidae are split out in spite of a lack of consensus among Dipterists over its status. The authors also mix Linnean ranked categories (Family, Order, etc.) with non-ranked clades in several places, with confusing results. Given the extraordinarily dynamic state of the field, however, the authors can be forgiven for some of their decisions.

Many of the revisions appear hasty, as though the book were primarily product of a publisher’s deadline. For example, the utility of Michael Ivie’s improved beetle key is marred by its incongruous insertion into the largely unaltered text of the previous edition. The chapter introduction treats the user to explanations of 6th edition characters that no longer appear in the new key, while scores of new and often complex characters are not explained in the text, do not appear in the glossary, and are not illustrated. I had to refer to Arnett’s American Beetles numerous times to make sense of the new characters. In fact, with few exceptions (like Trichoptera), the figures have not been updated for several editions and users are left to puzzle over scores of unexplained couplets. Microsetose antennal grooves in Coleoptera? Dorsal versus ventral abdominal spiracles in Lygaeoid bugs? Adequate explanations will not be found in the text.

The editing is sloppy. The formatting of taxonomic synopses appears not to have been checked as there are errors in indentation (e.g., the Calyptrate muscoid fly families are indented equal to their header). Page headers for keys persist well beyond the keys themselves. For instance, scale insect descriptions (pg. 324-328) are found on pages labeled, oddly enough, "Key to the Subfamilies of Cicadellidae." The index is conspicuously error-laden (e.g., the beetle family Ciidae is nowhere to be found, but appears erroneously as "Cidae" and "Cilidae". And who knew that "Cermanbycidae"(sic) were long-horned beetles?). Some figure references in the keys have not caught up to the new arrangement of the illustrations; couplet 53 in the fly key points to an illustration that has since moved elsewhere.

Distressingly, a few errors from the previous edition are left uncorrected, and new errors have been introduced. For example, couplet 11 of the Hymenoptera key still asks users to decide if certain wing crossveins are "present" or "present" (11′ should read "absent"). Couplet 14 shunts wingless wasps to couplet 16 (the Apoidea) instead of couplet 106. Most moths in the common family Noctuidae will be incorrectly identified as Pantheidae because of a text error at couplet 59 in the Lepidoptera key.

The family descriptions that follow the keys in each chapter are a mixed bag. Usually they are succinct and accurate, but some of the assessments of North American species numbers are dated. There are occasional taxonomic errors that result from outdated text carried uncritically over from older editions. For example, our Nearctic army ants have been classified in the genus Neivamyrmex since the 1950s, yet the text several editions later still refers to them as Eciton.

The Borror and DeLong text remains without an equal as an all-in-one volume for the identification of North American insect families. As such, it is a shame that my impression of the 7th edition is one of missed opportunity. 15 years since the 6th edition should be plenty of time to draw up new figures to keep pace with taxonomic advances and illustrate the updated keys, and certainly enough time to put the text through the rigorous proof-reading that it apparently never received.

(note: the reviewer uses this text in teaching a field entomology class at the University of California at Davis)