For readers of Entangled Life, Other Minds and The Gospel of Eels, this is a book to upturn your expectations about one overlooked animal and the wider architecture of our natural world. With endless surprises, Endless Forms might teach you about the wasps that spend their entire lives sealed inside a fig, about stinging wasps, about parasitic wasps, about wasps that turn cockroaches into living zombies, about how wasps taught us to make paper.
It offers up a maligned insect in all its diverse, unexpected splendour; as both predator and pollinator, the wasp is an essential pest controller worldwide. Inside their sophisticated social worlds is the best model we have for the earth's major evolutionary transitions. In their understudied biology are clues to progressing medicine, including a possible cure for cancer. The closer you look at these spurned, winged insects – both custodians and bouncers of our planet – the more you see. Their secrets have so far gone mostly untapped, but the potential of the wasp is endless.
Professor Seirian Sumner is a Professor of Behavioural Ecology at University College London, where she studies the ecology and evolution of social insects. She has published over 70 papers in scientific journals and has received numerous awards for her work, including a L'Oreal for Women in Science Award, a Points of Light Award from the UK Prime Minister, and a Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London. She is a Fellow and Trustee of the Royal Entomological Society and co-founder of the citizen science initiative Big Wasp Survey. Endless Forms is her debut work of non-fiction for a general audience. She lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and three children.
"A book I never knew I needed that is an absolute delight to read [...] Finally, a cure for our irrational fear of this unfairly demonised insect [...] A book that draws us in to the strange beauty of what we so often run away from"
– Robin Ince
"If you've ever wondered "why do wasps exist?" you must read this book. There is so much more to them than you ever imagined. A funny and beautifully written welcome to the enigmatic, weird and wonderful world of wasps. Wasps are seriously cool"
– Dave Goulson, author of Silent Earth
"I thought I knew about wasps – I was wrong. Endless Forms is a tremendously good read that left me buzzing with excitement and reminded me why I became an entomologist"
– George McGavin
"Sometimes the most perfect books are those that shine a light on surprising, neglected subjects. Endless Forms is just such a book. Summer writes lucidly and entertainingly about this most fascinating of creatures"
– Will Storr, author of The Science of Storytelling
"You also shouldn't miss Endless Forms [...] which explains why you shouldn't, on any account, go squashing these remarkable creatures to a pulp [...] [A] marvellous, revelatory natural history"
– Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller, Editor's Choice
"Contains splendidly vivid descriptions of modern techniques of entomological heredity and genomics, as well as insect-scale neuroscience [...] You might not positively love wasps by the end of Endless Forms, then, but it would be a tetchy soul who did not begrudgingly admire them a bit more"
"Sumner's vivid enthusiasm for wasps is contagious [...] with every animated description of the daily lives of a wasp family, my prejudices melt away"
"A revelatory, as well as highly entertaining, journey to discover the beauty, vast diversity and critical functions of the "most enigmatic of insects""
– Shelf Awareness