An Illustrated Guide to Japanese Bees


Review of "An Illustrated guide to Japanese Bees” Edited by Osamu Tadauchi and Ryuki Murao. Bun-ichi Co., Ltd."¥12,000.

By Laurence Packer* and Sumie Ishikawa. * Department of Biology, York University, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, ON., M3J 1P3.

Not many countries have books permitting the identification of all of their bee species. Unsurprisingly, island nations, with their reduced diversity, figure predominantly in such thorough treatments (e.g. Madagasacar, Pauly et al., 2001; New Zealand, Donovan, 2007). Now another island nation, Japan, joins the list and also raises the stakes in terms of how user friendly a guide to bees can be.

Osamu Tadauchi and his student Ryuki Murao have edited a beautifully illustrated treatment of the 389 species of bee in Japan that, with a combination of traditional identification keys and copious illustrations, makes most of Japan’s bee fauna identifiable to the species level even for someone with no taxonomic training. Of course, the most problematic of bees – Lasioglossum are not so easily dealt with, but even with, but even here some progress can be made and some species have readily identifiable features.

After the introduction and table of contents, there is a short section that deals with classification, ecology (floral relations, nesting behaviour, sociality), collection methods and finally morphology. All of the important morphological features are then illustrated with labelled colour images immediately preceding the two page key to families, where, again, all features required are illustrated. Michener’s classification of the bees into 7 families is followed, although only 6 of them are found in Japan. The family key is made easier by the absence of the genera that are exceptions to otherwise diagnostic features, such as the apine genera Ancyla and Ctenoplectra (long-tongued bees with short-tongued bee mouthpart morphology) and rophitines (some of which have labial palps of long-tongued bees despite belonging to the short-tongued bee family Halictidae).

One feature that makes this book particularly easy to use is that each family is colour coded along the upper margin of each page and each genus is colour coded along each outer margin of the page. Thus, to get to the beginning of the treatment of the Halictidae, the user just has to flip through to the beginning of the dark red section. The first pages for each family provides a generic level key, again with all characteristics imaged. Once the genus has been identified, flipping through the different tabs of colour on the outer margin readily locates the species treatments for that genus. In addition to being colour coded along the outer margin, the genera within a family are also numbered. For the larger genera – such as Andrena, Lasioglossum and Megachile, subgeneric level keys are provided. The result, is that illustrated keys take the user to a manageable number of species for which merely looking through the habitus images and illustrations of species diagnostic characteristics facilitates complete identification.

For each species the scientific and Japanese common names are provided, followed by the bee’s size range, phenology, geographic distribution (including extralimital regions), known floral hosts and a brief morphological description. In addition to habitus and diagnostic characteristic illustration, there are often images of a live bee on a flower. This is a useful addition given that bees on flowers often look surprisingly different from pinned specimens.

There is an extensive list of references at the end – starting with general papers and then family by family. Lastly, there are three sets of indices: latin names, common Japanese names for bees and floral hosts."

(Cited from Hamuli (The Newsletter of the International Society of Hymenopterists), Vol. 6 (2): 3-4, 2015)

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