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Book review of “Diptera, an Introduction to Flies” by Nikita E. Vikhrev
#1 Print Post
Posted on 06-12-2020 17:37

Location: Soest, NL
Posts: 17185
Joined: 21.07.04

Book review of “Diptera, an Introduction to Flies” by Nikita E. Vikhrev
Phyton XXI publishers, Moscow, 160 pp. English text editor: Tony Irwin. ISBN 978-5-906811-85-1
Available at for €17,99.

We, a group of European dipterologists, entered the the train running over the BAM railway from Komsomolsk (na Amure, that is) to Vanino, at the Pacific coast, planning to leave it early morning at Tumnin Spa. We shared our cabin with two babushki. Once they discovered we could actually understand Russian at a very rudimentary level, they started asking questions. “Where are you going ?” the first granny asked. “And what are you planning to do ?”, the second added. “We are going to look for flies.” The “Ah….” was followed by a long silence. “And when you find them, what will you do ?” “We collect them for science.” This time, they nodded instantly. “Very good, very good indeed”. “You are welcome to be our guests”, said the first babushka. ‘And you may collect as many as you like”, added the second.
Russia has a long standing tradition of dipterology. Traditionally, this was based in Sankt Petersburg (Leningrad at the time), but nowadays the focus seem to have shifted to Moscow. One of the current leading dipterologists, Nikita Vikhrev, curator of Diptera in Moscow, published a popular scientific textbook on Diptera, recently translated into English by Tony Irwin’s support. Those who are looking for a purely scientific textbook, don’t need to bother. This book is filled with personal observations and (Russian) stories on mosquitoes and flies. There are entries on Scenopinidae and Calliphoridae on apartment buildings in Moscow and how to use the latter in warfare, swarms of Bibionid scaring the hell out of Moscowian citizens and a journalist “bitten to death” by Simuliidae while covering a soccer match at Volgograd (don’t worry, nobody died). The author claims that Culicidae are the most ferocious at Kosh-Agach in the Altaj mountains, which I can confirm by personal experience. Finally, the crazy story of Mucha (English transcription would be Mukha = fly in Russian, related to Musca) Tzokotucha going from Russian fairy tale to stamp to a species of Sepsidae. And Pushkin, of course.
Don’t get me wrong ! “Diptera, an Introduction to Flies” gives a very decent and popular scientific overview of the order of Diptera. It treats all important families of Diptera and the author clearly knows his stuff, from Blephaceridae to Tachinidae. It is very accessible and easy to read, and as the author put it “if you need to pass your exam on zoology, you can read it in one day”. There is no identification, no keys, but it gives surprisingly much information on lifecycle. In two or three cases, the author nearly misses the bend, but is saved by the English editor. It is, in the words of the author “an illustrated storybook, not a reference book, so that less prepared people can read it as well”.
And illustrated, it is ! Many members of have contributed to this book by donation of pictures. Tony Irwin, very active on, edited the English version, therefore, the articles “the” and “a” are all properly placed ! It is great to see dipterologists all over Europe contributing to this Russian textbook.
This book is on the edge of two Russian traditions: dipterology and storytelling. I welcome the English translation of this originally Russian work and hope it will be read and liked outside Russia as much as it was inside. In short, a fun read.
#2 Print Post
Posted on 06-12-2020 18:32

Location: Franconia, Germany
Posts: 2279
Joined: 11.11.18

Yeah! I received my book from NHBS a few days ago and I totally agree! TumbsUp
Nikita Vikhrev
#3 Print Post
Posted on 06-12-2020 23:46
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Location: Moscow, Russia
Posts: 8955
Joined: 24.05.05

Thank you dear friends and colleagues
Nikita Vikhrev - Zool Museum of Moscow University
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