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Beetles of the world: an encyclopedia – Interview of Patrice Bouchard

Coléoptères du monde : une encyclopédie
Editions Delachaux & Niestlé

on sale since April 7, 2016

The beetles become real stars : this incredibly diversified order adapted to innumerable environments federates some 400 000 described species, whose biology is often of an amazing sophistication, which decline an amazing diversity of architectures, colors and corpulences, ranging from a few tenths of millimeters to a few hundred grams of an imposing Goliathus African.

A team of entomologists associating Canadians, Americans and New Zealanders, orchestrated by Patrice Bouchard (Ottawa), is responsible for this work (“The Book of Beetles“) imposing, even fascinating, remarkably illustrated, which invites to (re)discover the beetles indeed all the families or almost all the families were indeed invited, each selected species being photographed in real size and enlarged so as to deliver the details as minute as sumptuous. The French version (“Coléoptères du monde : une encyclopédie“) was produced by Denis Richard, entomologist and naturalist, author also known as translator of numerous works devoted to nature or gardens – notably at Delachaux.

And what we discover there cannot fail to amaze us (once again in the world of insects !): such large New Guinea weevil (Gymnopholus lichenifer, literally “the one who carries lichen”) carries on its elytra a microcosm associating lichens, nematodes and mites ; some tenebrionidae support temperatures going down to less than -60°C (lire this article) ; the amazing female Platerodrilus korinchianus, a Lycidae from the Malaysian peninsula, evokes a kind of trilobite ; Hypocephalus armatus roams the Brazilian land like a courtilière (he was recently the subject of a note on this blog)… In short, the sum proposed by Patrice Bouchard and his colleagues makes it possible to get acquainted with some 600 species all emblematic by one or the other of their features, all magnificently illustrated, all endearing, all admired or feared…

In a word, if this “bible” of beetles has enough to seduce the confirmed beetleopterist as the novice entomologist, it will also know how to retain the attention of any naturalist or, simply, of anyone who shows himself curious about the incredible genius of the living that it contributes to sublimate. It is therefore natural that it finds a deserved place among readers of”Passion-entomology“…

Benoît GILLES

To get the books mentioned here, follow the links at the bottom of this article.

 


 

Interview de Patrice BOUCHARD – PhD
Entomology researcher
Auxiliary professor at the University of Ottawa
Custodian of the Beetle Section (Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes)

caption id=”attachment_2899″ align=”alignleft” width=”201″]Patrice BOUCHARD in the Namibian desert during a recent expedition looking for Tenebrionidae (Source : P. BOUCHARD) Patrice BOUCHARD – Namibian desert (Source : P. BOUCHARD)[/caption]

Passion-Entomologie” thanks Patrice Bouchard for having kindly accepted to answer some questions and to share with us his passion for insects.

  • Patrice, where do you get this passion for entomology in general, and more particularly for beetles ?

I have been passionate about nature since I was very young. From then on, I knew that one day I would become a biologist but it was only at university that I decided to concentrate on entomology. At first, I studied several groups of insects for my control and it is during these two years that I judged that the beetles are really the coolest! Their great diversity (biological and morphological) is quite exciting and this group offers a breathtaking number of challenges to meet…

  • What are your current research topics ?

caption id=”attachment_2902″ align=”alignright” width=”311″]Patrice BOUCHARD and a pair of Guyanese beetles Megasoma actaeon (Source : P. BOUCHARD) Patrice BOUCHARD and a pair of Guyanese beetles Megasoma actaeon (Source : P. BOUCHARD)[/caption]

I work in the federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada department, so my biological, taxonomic and phylogenetic research focuses on groups that have a potential or real impact on agriculture, forestry and natural environments here in Canada. I publish first of all on two large groups of beetles, Tenebrionidae which contain about 20 000 described species, and Cucurlionidae, which contain about 60 000 ! These two groups keep me busy, especially with the effects of climate change and global trade that regularly bring non-native species to Canada.

  • How did you get the idea to write and coordinate such a sum on beetles? Was it easy to find a publisher for this richly illustrated work ?

I must admit that this project started with an initial idea from the company’s publishing team Ivy Press, in the UK. This book, which is similar in format and content with other products previously published by the same company with the collaboration University of Chicago Press (for example The Book of Shells and The book of leaves), was the first dedicated to this group of arthropods. I accepted their offer to assemble a team of authors and the content of this book in the time allotted, which was a challenge… As you mentioned, the large number of photos to produce (many of them from rare specimens borrowed from several collections around the world) required us a lot of determination.

  • How do you position this book in relation to its potential readership: it is not strictly intended for the neophyte (and can even sometimes prove complex), but, at the same time, it does not constitute a treatise specific to diagnosis…

The Book of Beetle

Ivy Press – 2014

Book of beetle

Cover Coleoptera of the world

Coléoptères du monde : Une encyclopédie

Delachaux & Niestlé – 2016

Many books on beetles are published each year and their content normally falls into two categories. There are thus more technical treaties on small groups with identification keys for genera and species. There are others that focus on whole wildlife, but these are generally restricted to small geographic areas to reduce the number of groups and species to be treated. I believe that our book can stand out from both if we consider it as a unique tribute to the diversity of beetles on the planet.

A major contribution is the inclusion of high resolution photos of species of all sizes (from less than 1mm to more than 16cm). We were proud to be able to present the biggest species but also to make discover the beauty of the small ones, which are just as interesting… These insects are also presented in their natural size, which helps the reader to imagine the individuals living in their habitat. The success of the English version of this book shows that its readership is very varied, ranging from children to professional entomologists. As a researcher, I believe we have an important responsibility to communicate our passion and knowledge to the general public, if only to stimulate and encourage people to pay more attention to the world around us.

  • The entomologists who collaborated on this book made drastic choices in the presented beetles: are there three or four species that you regret more particularly not to see appearing in this “bible of beetles” ?

Box beetlesBox of Beetles

Box of 100 postcards containing the most photogenic species from “The Book of Beetles”

The number of interesting beetle species is enormous !

I am always on the lookout for any exciting discoveries in the field or in the publications I read. I have a large list of other species that could have been included in this book. I will continue to enrich it for future projects (perhaps a second larger edition could be considered) but you can also contact me directly by email to suggest your favorite species, if you want… patrice.bouchard@agr.gc.ca

  • Would you advise a young enthusiast to embark on a career as a professional entomologist (in France, there are few courses of study and the outlets remain slim) ?

I was lucky to study in Australia for my PhD: it remains an incredible biological and cultural experience. There was no apparent opening for a career in entomology after my studies, but I tried my best to produce interesting research results and ultimately everything worked out well for me. I was hired in the best possible position given my qualifications in my country (at the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes). Last year, five new entomology researchers joined our team in the collection. I don’t know specifically the courses in France but I think there will always be room, in the world of science in general, for more passion and motivated students!

  • Do you have one or two “entomological memories”, to use the title of Fabre’s memoirs, which you would like us to benefit from ?

caption id=”attachment_2906″ align=”alignright” width=”309″]Patrice BOUCHARD at the Book of the Beetles launch in Washington D.C. with co-authors Lourdes CHAMARRO (left) and Art EVENS (right) (Source : P. BOUCHARD) Patrice BOUCHARD at the book launch of The Book of the Beetles in Washington D.C. with co-authors : Lourdes CHAMORRO (left) and Art EVENS (right) (Source : P. BOUCHARD)[/caption]

My most precious entomological memories are associated with the field expeditions in which I had the chance to participate. I spent time hunting coleos in the world’s great tropical forests and isolated deserts. I spend a lot of time in the field walking and searching for nocturnal colaeos (especially Tenebrionidae) that do not have wings and are therefore not captured with common sampling techniques. The world of arthropods and other nocturnal creatures is still as impressive and amazing for me ! During these expeditions, we often meet people from different cultures who are more interesting than each other. I had the chance to learn a lot about the Maya of the Lacandon region during a trip to Mexico and about the Himbas tribes during work in Namibia.

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Interviews

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Benoît GILLES
Chargé de recherche – Entomologiste chez Cycle Farms