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DEFINITION:1 any of a genus (Quercus) of large hardwood trees and bushes of the beech family, bearing acorns 2 the wood of an oak 3 any of various plants with oak like leaves 4 a wreath of oak leaves 5 woodwork, furniture, etc. made of oak.

The majestic monarchs of the forest may take 100 years to reach maturity and then may live for another 900 years. Their wood provides one of the strongest and most durable of timbers.

Oaks range in size from shrubs to giants 150 feet (45 meters) high. The trees develop thick trunks and large, wide-spreading branches. The leaf is usually deeply lobed, but in some species it is almost smooth at the edge. Oaks are easily recognized by their fruit the acorn, a round nut set in a woody cup. American Indians and New England pioneers boiled and ate the acorns of the white oak, and acorns are part of the diet of some forest and tree-dwelling animals.

About 450 species of ornamental and timber oaks constitute the oak genus Quercus (a member of the beech family Fagaceae). They grow widely throughout the Temperate Zone of the Northern Hemisphere and at high altitudes in the tropics. About 75 species are native to the United States.

White oak, name (Quercus alba) applied to the group of oaks with grey-brown heartwood, usually without a reddish tinge, and with pores filled with a fibrous growth that makes this wood resistant to decay; includes the species white, swamp white, chestnut, swamp chestnut, chinquapin, bur, live, and post oaks.

One of the best-known species in the United States is the white oak (Q. alba). This stately tree grows from 70 to 150 feet (21 to 45 meters) high. The leaves are large and deeply lobed, light green above and whitish beneath. In autumn the foliage turns deep violet and clings to the tree throughout the winter, falling only just before new leaves appear. This is characteristic of many oaks. The trunk of the white oak, which often is 4 feet (1.3 meters) in diameter, has furrowed whitish bark; this gives the tree its name.

The bur, or mossy-cup, oak (Q. macrocarpa) is the most common oak of the prairie states. Its average height is about 75 feet (23 meters), but some bur oaks tower to 150 feet (45 meters). Its deep-green leaves are very large, sometimes up to 1 foot (0.3 meter) in length, deeply lobed at the lower part and rounded at the apex.

The acorns are large and set in rough fringed cups. The bur oak grows from Pennsylvania to Montana and is largest in the Ohio Valley.

Red oak, name Quercus rubra or Quercus borealis applied to the group of oaks with brown wood that has a red tint; includes the species northern red, southern red, swamp red, scarlet, black, blackjack, laurel, pin, shumard, water, and willow oaks.

The red oak (Q. rubra, or Q. borealis) is colourful in all seasons. The round solid crown of the tree is covered with large, sharply lobed leaves. These are pink and furry in the spring, green in the summer, and deep purple-red in the autumn. The bark is dark brown, thick, and furrowed. The red oak bears large acorns set in shallow saucer like cups.

The pin oak or Spanish oak (Q. palustris) is a quick-growing medium sized tree raised generally as a street tree. Its deeply cut leaves are brilliant in autumn. The trunk and larger limbs are studded with tough branchlets, which probably account for the tree’s name. It grows in the Eastern United States, usually on moist lowlands.

Chestnut, Live, and English Oaks

The chestnut oak (Q. muehlenbergii or Q. acuminata), also called the yellow oak, has the major characteristics of the oak family but has chestnut like leaves. These are serrated, or saw-toothed, instead of deeply lobed. The tree is tall and stately, with stout trunk and limbs. It grows in the central states.

The live oak (Q. virginiana) is a beautiful southern tree that sometimes reaches 60 feet (18 meters) in height. Its branches are spreading and graceful, covered with small evergreen foliage and often festooned with mosses. It rarely grows far from the Gulf of Mexico.

The well-known English oak (Q. robur) is the largest and most celebrated of all the world’s oak trees. The “wooden walls” of Britain, the ships of the Royal Navy, were built from the timber of this kingly tree. Some fine specimens still standing in England date from the Anglo-Saxon period. The majestic English oak is a veritable giant, with sturdy limbs and enormous girth. The peculiar zigzag growth of the limbs in older trees gives them a twisted look and adds to their picturesque appearance.

Uses

Tannin (or tannic acid), organic chemical compound used in tanning leather, dyeing fabric, making ink, and in various medical applications.

The value of oak timber varies with the species. The English oak is tough, hard, close grained, and comparatively easy to work. It is exceedingly durable and defies drought and moisture. The bur oak ranks next to the English oak in importance. It is used for shipbuilding, furniture, and other manufactures. The bark is especially rich in tannin and is used in the preparation of leather. The timber of the white oak is adapted to the same purposes as that of the English oak and the bur oak, though it is slightly inferior in quality.

The live oak produces strong yellow wood that is difficult to work. It is highly valued for shipbuilding, however, because it is very durable under water. The timber of the red oak is porous and so has little commercial value, but it is useful for making barrels, and the bark is used for tanning leather. The chestnut oak also yields good timber.

Galls

Gall (or gall nut), abnormal growth on leaves, stems, buds, flowers, or roots of plants caused by various parasites, especially insects and mites, and more rarely by nematodes, bacteria, fungi, slime moulds, and algae; found on almost all forms of plant life, but especially common on oak trees, willows, roses, and goldenrod.

The galls or gall nuts so frequently found on oaks are usually produced by gall flies They lay their eggs in the tissues of the trees. The tissues swell at the point of puncture and form firm nut like structures within which the young of the insects develop to maturity. Each kind of gall fly produces a different kind of gall. Some galls are rich in tannin.

Posted 2012/02/11 by Stelios in Education

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INSECTS (Part 2 of 2).   Leave a comment

CLASSIFICATION

Insects belong to the phylum Arthropoda, one of the chief divisions of the animal kingdom. The name comes from two Greek words, arthron (“joint”) and podos (“foot”), and refers to the jointed feet. Arthropods also include spiders, lobsters, centipedes, and other animals. In this phylum, insects belong to the class Insecta. Each insect has two parts to its scientific name. For example, the housefly is Musca domestica. The first half of the name is that of the genus (a group of closely related species) to which the species domestica belongs. The many thousands of insect genera (plural of genus) are grouped under more than 900 families. These families, in turn, are grouped under as many as 30 orders.

To summarize, the housefly is classified as follows: kingdom, Animalia; phylum, Arthropoda; class, Insecta (Hexapoda); order, Diptera; family, Muscidae; genus, Musca; species, domestica. Each of these groups is often divided even further into subgroups (subphylum, subclass, suborder, and so on).

Ancestors of the Modern Insect

Insects appeared on Earth long before the advent of humans or the earliest mammals. The first insects probably evolved from primitive ringed worms. These insect ancestors were wingless and developed without metamorphosis, as do today’s silverfish.

The oldest fossils of ancestral insect forms are believed to be some 350 million years old. There are also fossil records, from later eras, of highly developed forms very similar to the mayflies, cockroaches, and dragonflies now in existence. Some ancient insects were truly huge; dragonflies, for example, had a wingspread of 2 feet (0.61 meter) or more.

THE IMPORTANCE OF INSECTS TO HUMANS

Insects that attack humans or anything of value to humans are termed pests; many of these are mutually competitive with humans for the world’s food supply. Other insects are benefactors of humans, as they devour the carcasses of dead animals, pollinate orchards, manufacture honey, or simply serve as another link in the food chain of the animal kingdom, for humans eat the animals including fish and birds which, in turn, live upon the insects.

HARMFUL INSECTS

About 10,000 species of insects have been classified as pests. Some are disease carriers, afflicting and often killing humans. Many insects prey upon domestic animals; others eat human food, clothing, and other possessions. Still others, in their quest for food or lodging, destroy trees, wood, and paper.

Carriers of Disease

 

Following are the names of some insects and the diseases they carry, and what may happen to someone who gets the disease.

INSECT

DISEASE CARRIED

RESULT

Tsetse fly

African sleeping sickness

Death

Mosquito

Yellow fever

Encephalitis

Malaria

Liver damage

Death

Chills

Fever

Rat flea

Bubonic plague

Death

Human louse

Typhus

Fever

Depression

Assassin bug

Chagas’ disease

Heart damage

Brain damage

Blindness

 

As vectors, or transmitting agents, of disease organisms, insects have caused more deaths and have inflicted greater misery and hardship on humankind than all the wars of history. In their efforts to find food, insects wage their own war against the human race. Some feed upon humans directly. Notable among these are the true flies, including mosquitoes, horseflies, black flies, tsetse flies, and other two-winged pests.

Perhaps humankind’s worst enemy among the insects is the mosquito. More lives have been lost as a result of malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and other mosquito-borne diseases than from all the other insect-borne diseases combined.

The tsetse fly has been a serious deterrent to the development of much of tropical Africa, for the insect acts as a vector of trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness) among humans and of nagana, a serious disease of livestock.

Horseflies and stable flies also transmit disease through their bites. The common housefly is not a biter, but it can carry myriad disease organisms on the hairs and the sticky secretions of its body. The assassin, or kissing, bug transmits the highly fatal Chagas’ disease.

Bedbugs, fleas, and lice live on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. The human louse lives on the blood of humans alone and transmits typhus, relapsing fever, and trench fever.

The flea is potentially one of humankind’s deadliest enemies; rat fleas, for example, carry the germs of murine typhus and bubonic plague, which was instrumental in wiping out the lives of one fourth of the population of Europe in four years.

Household Pests

Insect pests in the home are most commonly chewers. One of the most troublesome of these the clothes moth attacks furs, woollens, and materials made of hair.

The silverfish and the fire-brat eat sized or stiffened material, such as the paper and bindings of books and starched clothing and curtains. In some parts of the United States, termites do considerable damage to furniture and paper products, as well as to the timber frameworks of buildings.

Plant-Eating Pests

Most insects are herbivorous that is, they feed on plants. Virtually every part of a plant, from the flower to the root, is vulnerable to their attack. They do their damage in a variety of ways.

Insects with chewing mouth-parts are the most destructive plant eaters. A horde of grasshoppers, for example, can strip every blade of vegetation from a field in a few hours. The destruction caused by other chewing insects, such as beetles, can also be enormous.

Insects with sucking mouth-parts, though usually smaller and less conspicuous than the chewers, also do a great deal of damage to farm crops and to forest and garden plants. These insects pierce plant tissues and draw out the vital juices. These insects include the aphids, chinch bugs, cicadas, and scale insects.

Damage is also done to the host plant from within by many other plant pests usually as larvae. Some eat their way between the top and bottom layers of a leaf, giving it a blotched appearance. The leaf roller, the larval form of certain moths, rolls a leaf into a tube and spins silk to hold it together. The caterpillar then feeds on the leaf. Other insect pests tie several leaves together into a large nest.

Gall-flies cause swellings on buds, flowers, leaves, stems, bark, or roots of plants. Usually the female pierces the plant and lays an egg; the plant then grows a gall, or swelling, around the egg.

Insect Immigrants Upset Nature’s Balance

As long as a region is left in its natural state, no species of insect is likely to increase disproportionately in numbers. The balance of nature prevents this from happening. Every insect has natural enemies, such as the spider, the praying mantis, and many kinds of disease organisms, that help keep the number of insects down.

The balance of nature in the New World was upset when settlers from Europe brought their domestic plants with them. Many insects that were harboured by these plants escaped the natural controls that were present in their old environments and became pests. The widespread use of such insecticides as DDT, now largely discontinued, also disrupted the balance of nature in some areas.

Pests arrive in many ways and from many lands. The gypsy moth, for example, was brought to the United States for experiments in the 1860s. It escaped from the laboratory and before the end of the 19th century had cost millions of dollars annually in damage to shade trees. The Argentine ant, an enemy of field crops and stored foods, was a stowaway in a cargo that reached New Orleans, La., in 1891. The brown-tail moth, another shade-tree pest, reached New England from Europe in about 1897. The alfalfa weevil came to Utah in 1902 in soil adhering to imported plants. The corn borer was carried from southern Europe in 1909 in a shipment of broom-corn Two serious pests came from Japan the Oriental fruit moth, on cherry trees presented by the city of Tokyo to Washington, D.C., in 1913; and the Japanese beetle, on trees reaching New Jersey in 1916. Also in 1916, carloads of cotton-seed from Mexico brought in the pink boll-worm Four arrived in 1920: the satin moth, an enemy of shade trees; the Asiatic beetle, which destroys lawns; the Mexican bean beetle, which feeds on a variety of beans; and the Mediterranean fruit fly, which is highly destructive of fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

METHODS OF INSECT CONTROL

Until the middle of the 19th century Americans were helpless against the growing insect menace. Finally, in the 1860s, arsenic compounds were found to be effective in combating the Colorado potato beetle. This was the first successful control of insect pests by scientific means. In the Morrill Act, in 1862, Congress provided for the study of insect pests and other agricultural problems.

Six principal methods are used in the control of insect pests. These methods are chemical, mechanical, radiological, cultural, biological, and legal.

Chemical. The chemical substances used to destroy insects are called insecticides. These may be broadly classified as stomach poisons, contact poisons, fumigants, and sorptive dusts. The stomach poisons are more effective against the chewing insects; the contact poisons, against sucking insects. Fumigants are gaseous poisons that enter the insect’s breathing system. Sorptive dusts are dry chemical compounds that kill insects by absorbing fatty substances from the exoskeleton, thus causing vital body fluids to evaporate.

Mechanical. Mechanical methods of insect control often primitive and time-consuming are generally less effective than chemical methods. They can seldom be applied practically to large populations of insects or over wide areas. These methods include swatting, the use of traps and barriers, water control, and temperature control. Water control involves adjustment of the water level or the rate of flow in breeding places. Temperature control is sometimes effective against insects that infest enclosed storage facilities. Reducing the temperature to 40 or 50 F (4 or 10 C) will cause most insects to become dormant; raising the temperature to 130 F (54 C) for three hours is sufficient to kill almost any insect.

Radiological. Perhaps the most dramatic, wholesale destruction of insects can be accomplished by making them infertile. Sexual sterility in male insects is induced by treating them with the rays of radioactive cobalt. If a large number of a particular species undergo this process in the laboratory, the treated males though sterile will still mate with fertile females; but the eggs laid by these females will be sterile. Following continual releases of sterile males in a single area, the number of young can be gradually reduced over a period of several generations until the population of the insect is totally wiped out within that area.

Through this technique the screw-fly, a serious pest of cattle, was first eradicated from the island of Curacao in the West Indies in 1954. Radiological warfare was then used to bring the screw-fly under control in the south-eastern United States.

Cultural. The cultural control of insect pests is of special interest to the farmer. Methods include the destruction of plant residues and weeds, crop tillage, crop rotation, and the growing of insect-resistant strains of crops.

Four things that farmers can do to control insects are

1. destroy plant residues and weeds. This can kill insects that are hibernating so they will not reproduce the following year.

2. crop tillage. This means to plough plants that have finished growing so they go back down into the soil and replenish the land. If a farmer ploughs at the right time of year, many insects living in the soil are killed.

3. crop rotation. This means to change the type of crop grown in a certain field in different seasons. Insect numbers are kept down when a farmer switches to a crop that insects do not like to eat.

4. insect-resistant strains. These are crops that insects do not like to eat. Developing insect-resistant strains of food limits insect populations.

When the farmer destroys the crop residues and weeds, he also destroys hibernating insects that would otherwise reproduce the following season. By ploughing or cultivating at the right time of year, he can often eliminate large numbers of harmful insects living in the soil. Crop rotation is an important means of combating insect pests of field crops, for many such pests will feed on only a single species or a single family of plant. Thus, if a farmer grows a grain one season and a legume the next, populations of many grain pests (as well as legume pests) can be kept down or eliminated.

Insect-resistant strains of many crops have been developed. Many of these strains have been developed by means of genetic engineering techniques. Resistance to the European corn borer, the wire-worm, and the chinch bug, for example, has been obtained in a single corn hybrid through selective breeding.

Biological. The control of insects by biological means involves the application of the pest’s natural enemies. These enemies may be microbes, mites, or other insects. Scientists have succeeded in controlling harmful insects by first determining the major predators or parasites of that insect in its country of origin. Then the scientists introduced these natural enemies as control agents in the new country that the pest had infested. A classic example is the cottony cushion scale, which threatened the survival of the California citrus industry in 1886. The predatory ladybird beetle, or vedalia beetle, was introduced from Australia, and within two years the scale insect had virtually disappeared from California.

In eastern Canada in the early 1940s the vicious European spruce sawfly was completely controlled by the spontaneous appearance of a viral plant disease, perhaps unknowingly introduced from Europe. This event led to increased interest in plant diseases as potential means of pest control.

Legal. The legal control of insects concerns government regulations to prevent the spread of insect pests from one country or region to another. The Federal Plant Quarantine Act of 1912 began the fight against imported pests by providing for inspectors at ports of entry. These officials examine all plant products as well as passengers’ baggage. Infested material is destroyed or thoroughly fumigated. Aircraft are examined and may be fumigated as soon as they arrive in the United States from countries where insect pests are a potential threat.

By the time an immigrant pest is discovered in domestic plants, it is usually too late for eradication of the injurious insect. In some instances, however, control has been achieved. In 1929 the Mediterranean fruit fly was detected in Florida orchards; the insects threatened ruin to the fruit crop. State and federal entomologists united for battle, and all Florida was quarantined. Abandoned and run-down orchards were destroyed. Chemists developed new poison sprays. By the end of the summer not a “medfly” could be found in Florida. In 1956 a second such outbreak occurred; this too was put down after several months of intensive warfare.

In 1981 a serious spread of the medfly threatened California’s agricultural regions with economic disaster. The pest had been imported accidentally in 1980. An attempt to control the insects by importing sterilized males from Peru failed. The Department of Agriculture threatened to quarantine the state’s produce unless the infected areas were fumigated. Governor Jerry Brown finally authorized helicopter spraying of the pesticide called malathion in July 1981. The spraying halted the threat to the California crops.

BENEFICIAL INSECTS

Numerous species of plants depend upon insects to pollinate them. In visiting flowers for nectar, insects carry pollen from one flower to the pistil of another. In this way they fertilize the plant and enable it to make seeds.

Without insects there would be no orchard fruits or berries. Tomatoes, peas, onions, cabbages, and many other vegetables would not exist. There would be no clover or alfalfa. The animals that need these forage crops would be of poor quality, and humankind’s meat supply would suffer. There would be no linen or cotton; no tea, coffee, or chocolate.

The honeybee produces honey and wax. Silk is made by the silkworm larva. Shellac is secreted by an Oriental scale insect. Such insects as the dobsonfly are used in sport fishing as bait.

In many underdeveloped areas of the world grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other insects are necessary to humans as food. Insects are also important to humans as food for other animals. Freshwater fishes depend upon insects for food. Hundreds of species of birds would perish if there were no insects to eat.

Insects have also played a significant role in the biological laboratory. The Drosophila fly, in particular, has been valuable in the study of inherited characteristics. The European blister beetle, or Spanish fly, is helpful in the fight against human disease, for it secretes cantharidin, a substance used medically as a blistering agent.

Many insects are invaluable as predators on insects that are pests to humans. In the same way, plant-eating insects are often valuable for their destruction of weeds. Insects that burrow in the earth improve the physical and chemical condition of the soil.

As scavengers, insects perform the important function of eating dead plants and animals. The housefly, scorned as a disease carrier, is beneficial in its larval form the maggot. It feeds on decaying refuse and in this way makes the world somewhat cleaner and more habitable for others.

The Principal Insect Orders

In the following list are the principal orders within the two subclasses of the class Insecta. Several obscure orders with relatively few species are omitted. The orders of the most primitive groups are given at the beginning of the list; the most highly developed at the end. After the name of each order, its meaning is given. The suffix -ptera means “wing”; -aptera, “wingless”; -ura, “tail.”

Subclass Apterygota

(wingless, no metamorphosis)

Thysanura (“tassel tail”) silverfish, bristle-tails, and fire-brats; wingless, scaly, three long bristles at the end of the body.

Collembola (“glue bolt”) spring-tails; tiny, wingless; jump by means of a springlike appendage below the abdomen.

Subclass Pterygota

(winged, undergo metamorphosis)

The following 11 orders are sometimes known as the Exopterygota. These have incomplete metamorphosis.

Orthoptera (“straight wings”) cockroaches, grasshoppers, crickets, walking-sticks, mantids, katydids, locusts, and their allies; fore-wings leathery; hind wings folded fan-wise

Dermaptera (“skin wings”) earwigs; fore-wings short; abdomen ends in a forceps-like appendage.

Plecoptera (“braided wings”) stone flies; membranous wings fold flat over the back; aquatic nymphs breathe with gills.

Isoptera (“equal wings”) termites; social insects with a caste system; resemble ants but have a broad, rather than narrow, waist.

Psocoptera (“gnawers”) psocids, book lice, and their allies; winged or wingless; feed on books and museum specimens.

Mallophaga (“wool eaters”) biting lice; flat, with chewing mouth-parts; external parasites of birds and certain warm-blooded animals.

Ephemeroptera (“living but a day”) mayflies; night-flying, delicate, short-lived; with membranous wings and two or three long tail filaments; nymphs aquatic; adults do not feed.

Anoplura (“unarmed tail”) sucking lice; with piercing mouth-parts for feeding on blood; external parasites of mammals.

Thysanoptera (“fringed wings”) thrips; usually four minute narrow fringed wings; pests of cultivated plants, spread viral plant diseases.

Hemiptera (“half wings”) (includes the order Homoptera) true bugs, aphids, leaf-hoppers, scales, and their allies; mostly four-winged, with piercing or sucking mouth-parts; many are plant pests.

Odonata (“toothed”) dragonflies and damselflies; two similar pairs of long, narrow wings; dragonflies keep wings outstretched at rest, damselflies keep them together over the back.

The remaining orders are sometimes known as the Endopterygota. These have complete metamorphosis.

Neuroptera (“nerve wings”) lacewings, ant lions, snake flies, and dobsonflies; two similar pairs of large, membranous wings, usually folded roof-like over the body when at rest.

Mecoptera (“long wings”) scorpion flies; long-faced, narrow-winged; in some males tip of abdomen curls over the back as a scorpion’s does.

Trichoptera (“hair wings”) caddis flies; adults moth-like but with longer antennae and uncoiled proboscis; larvae aquatic, make fixed or portable cases in which they live and pupate.

Lepidoptera (“scale wings”) moths and butterflies; wings covered with minute, overlapping scales; coiled proboscis usually present.

Coleoptera (“sheath wings”) beetles and weevils; fore-wings hard, vein-less, and opaque, meeting in a straight line; hind wings membranous, translucent; the largest order of insects, numbering some 300,000 species.

Strepsiptera (“twisted wings”) males winged, females wingless; females of most species are parasites on other insects.

Hymenoptera (“membrane wings”) wasps, ants, bees, and their allies; many species useful to man; ovipositors in some females modified as a stinger.

Diptera (“two wings”) true flies, mosquitoes, and midges; two developed wings; mouth-parts variable; many species pupate inside the last larval skin.

Siphonaptera (“siphon wingless”) fleas; tiny, jumping insects with narrow bodies adapted for moving between the hairs of animal hosts, whose blood they suck; some species transmit disease.

Assisted by Thomas Park, Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of Chicago; former President, Ecological Society of America. Critically reviewed and updated by J. Whitfield Gibbons, Senior Research Ecologist and Professor of Zoology, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia.

BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR INSECT

Barbosa, Pedro and Jack Schultz. Insect Outbreaks (Academic Press, 1987).

Better Homes and Gardens Editors. Bugs, Bugs, Bugs (BH&G, 1989).

Blum, Murray. Fundamentals of Insect Physiology (Wiley, 1985).

Borror, Donald. An Introduction to the Study of Insects (Saunders College Publications, 1989).

Boy Scouts of America. Insect Study (BSA, 1985).

Burton, John. The Oxford Book of Insects (Oxford, 1982).

Gattis, L.S. Insects for Pathfinders (Cheetah Publications, 1987).

Goor, Ron and Nancy Goor. Insect Metamorphosis (Macmillan, 1990).

Higley, Leon. Manual of Entomology and Pest Management (Macmillan, 1989).

Horton, B.G. and others. Amazing Fact Book of Insects (Creative Editors, 1987).

Leahy, Christopher. Peterson Field Guide to Insects (Houghton, 1987).

Line, Les and Lorus Milne. The Audubon Society Book of Insects (Abrams, 1983).

Mayer, Daniel and Connie Mayer. Bugs: How to Raise Insects for Fun and Profit (And Books, 1983).

Seymour, Peter. Insects: A Close-Up Look (Macmillan, 1985).

Stiling, Peter. An Introduction to Insect Pests and Their Control (Macmillan, 1985).