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What Good are Bugs?: Insects in the Web of Life

Popular Science

By: Gilbert Waldbauer

366 pages, 30 b/w illus

Harvard University Press

Paperback | Oct 2004 | #149032 | ISBN: 0674016327
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £18.95 $23/€21 approx
Hardback | Dec 2003 | #137834 | ISBN: 0674010272
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About this book

Waldbauer combines anecdotes from entomological history with insights into the intimate workings of the natural world, describing the diverse behaviour of these tiny creatures. He discusses the uses insects have on earth, from ants sowing their "hanging gardens" on Amazonian shrubs and trees to the sacred scarab of ancient Egypt burying balls of cattle dung full of undigested seeds, from the cactus-eating caterpillar (aptly called Cactoblastis) controlling the spread of the prickly pear to the prodigious honey bee and the "sanitary officers of the field" - the fly maggots, ants, beetles, and caterpillars that help decompose and recycle dung, carrion, and dead plants.

Persuasive, rollicking, and informative...He may not get you to hug your termites, but you will see them in a whole new light. Bugs are truly awesome in numbers and variety...On the surface, bugs seem so alien to us. But in anecdote after anecdote, Waldbauer gives us plenty with which we can identify...Waldbauer celebrates not only the good things bugs do but also the bizarre...What Waldbauer shows us is that bugs are vitally important to our planet. They help plant life grow. They are great cleanup crews, removing waste material...They till and aerate soil. They provide food for all kinds of animals, including fish and birds and some mammals...Clearly, bugs are good. -- Vicki Croke Boston Globe 20030415 This book will open the eyes of readers who, like the great majority of mankind, regard insects with contempt or disgust. It will make them look on our six-legged fellow creatures with more interest and sympathy, and will thus add a new dimension to their own lives. -- Anthony Daniels Sunday Telegraph (UK) 20030504 Written in a gentle style that is easy to read yet still authoritative, the breadth of insect ecology is paraded before us. -- Richard Jones BBC Wildlife 20031101 Waldbauer is an entomologist with an unwavering verve for his pursuits. Here he catalogs ecologically important insects by their 'occupations' within an ecosystem, explaining how they live and how they make possible life in general. Among insects' occupations are their roles in regulating plant and animal populations and tilling the soil. In some cases, their capabilities and behaviors are nothing short of mind-boggling. Waldbauer reports that one species of Great Plains ants has brought to the surface about 1.7 tons of subsoil per acre. An average colony of honeybees harvests 44 pounds of pollen and 265 pounds of nectar a year. Such anecdotes combine with the author's keen insight into the mechanics of ecosystems to make a strong case on behalf of the lowly insect. Science News 20041211 Waldbauer gives us a bugs-eye view of the world in this well-written and entertaining book that will change the way you think about insects. -- B.F. Southeastern Naturalist


Macrocosm Helping Plants 1. Pollinating 2. Dispersing Seeds 3. Supplying Food 4. Providing Defense Helping Animals 5. Giving Sustenance 6. Giving Protection Limiting Population Growth 7. Controlling Plant Populations 8. Controlling Insect Populations 9. Controlling Vertebrate Populations Cleaning Up 10. Recycling Dead Animals 11. Recycling Dung 12. Recycling Dead Plants Microcosm Selected Readings Acknowledgments Index

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GILBERT WALDBAUER is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His books include Millions of Monarchs, Bunches of Beetles, Insects through the Seasons, and The Birder's Bug Book (all from Harvard).

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