Public Release: 

Field Museum book profiles Illinois insects

Original watercolors bring bugs to life in this artistic field guide

Field Museum

Full size image available here

CHICAGO--In an attractive marriage of art and science, renowned artist Peggy Macnamara has illustrated a new field guide to insects and spiders of Chicago and Illinois.

"Let this book be your guide as you explore the world of these tiny creatures," says Maggie Daley, Chicago's First Lady, in the book's foreword. "As you page through this book, think about the beautiful and unique insects and spiders that are in you own yard, neighborhood park, or forest preserve - and how they affect our world."

Illinois Insects and Spiders, published by the University of Chicago Press in association with The Field Museum, has just been made available at bookstores. Field Museum curators and collection managers wrote the text, which describes what makes hundreds of local insects and spiders so interesting and special.

Hundreds of different bugs are illustrated, from cicadas to bees and beetles to butterflies. Each original watercolor is accompanied by a scientific description and informative notes about how to identify and better understand that particular species. Readers will learn about Illinois' most common bugs as well as its most endangered ones. They will take away a better appreciation of the insect world, the largest group in the animal kingdom with an estimated 40 million species, 17,000 of which are known to live in Illinois. "Readable text provided by curatorial staff at the museum accompanies artwork meant to unveil treasures found here at home, where conservation begins," says John McCarter, Field Museum President and CEO.

An artist adapts

Macnamara, who has been painting watercolors at The Field Museum for more than 20 years, is more accustomed to drawing mammals and birds. For this project, she had to adapt to her new subject matter, using new colors and techniques. For example, to examine the insects and render them in intricate detail, she needed to use a microscope.

"When I looked through the lens...I felt lost, silly in love," Macnamara says. "I began drawing forms I had never seen before, gradually creating new methods.

"I have found that the insect experience is a prescription for life," she adds. "I see the value in moving a little slower, looking ever more closely, and finding treasures in the seemingly mundane."

Macnamara is an artist-in-residence and associate of The Field Museum's Zoology Department. Also, she is an adjunct associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the author of Painting Wildlife in Watercolor. Illinois Insects and Spiders retails for $16 and is available online at or

A digital image of the cover of the book is available by email.


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