The beauty of butterflies, the cheerful chirp of crickets, the ink our ancestors wrote with, the beeswax in altar candles, the honey on our toast, the silk we wear. This enchanting book is a highly entertaining exploration of the myriad ways insects have enriched our lives – culturally, economically, and aesthetically.
Entomologist and writer Gilbert Waldbauer describes in loving, colorful detail how many of the valuable products insects have given us are made, how they were discovered, and how they have been used through time and across cultures. Along the way, he takes us on a captivating ramble through many far-flung corners of history, mythology, poetry, literature, medicine, ecology, forensics, and more. Enlivened with personal anecdotes from Waldbauer's distinguished career as an entomologist, Fireflies, Honey, and Silk also describes surprising everyday encounters we all experience that were made possible by insects.
From butterfly gardens and fly-fishing to insects as jewelry and sex pheromones, this is an eye-opening ode to the wonder of insects that illuminates our extraordinary and essential relationship with the natural world.
List of Illustrations
I. Insects People Like
II. The Silk We Wear
III. Dyeing the Cloth
IV. Baubles, Bracelets, and Anklets
V. Candles, Shellac, and Sealing Wax
VI. Paper and Ink
VII. Butterflies in Your Tummy
VIII. Satisfying the Sweet Tooth
IX. Cures and Nostrums
X. Insect Pets and Performers
Epilogue. The Ecological Context
Gilbert Waldbauer is Emeritus Professor of Entomology at the University of Illinois. He is the author of many books on insects including Insights from Insects, What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us, The Handy Bug Answer Book, and A Walk Around the Pond: Insects in and over the Water.
"Professional yet conversational, Waldbauer's essays are an homage to a world that first fascinated him as a child."
– Audubon Magazine
"A journey that takes the reader far beyond the domain of crickets on the hearth and butterflies in the garden [...] Abuzz with obscure lore about a host of bugs that are as accommodating to humans as bedbugs, fleas, and mosquitoes are annoying."
– Natural History
"Explores the interactions between humans and insects, particularly human uses of insects, in accessible, easy prose ready-made for a broad, curious audience."
– Publishers Weekly
"Like a gentle fireside chat, Fireflies, Honey and Silk leaves you with an unexpectedly warm glow about the many critters and bugs that we tend to overlook or revile."
– The Age
"An unexpected delight. The series of stories [...] is the sort of idiosyncratic stream of consciousness that shouldn't work. But it does, and it flows with ease as his obvious love for, and obsession with, all things insect cascades from the page [...] Reading this book is like sitting at the feet of a favourite uncle on a winter evening beside a crackling fire."
– New Scientist
"Useful to those simply interested in learning more about insects [...] Waldbauer's conversational tone and use of layman's terms create an easy-to-read book that is interesting and entertaining."
"Gilbert Waldbauer takes us on a wild and storied ride through the insect world. Page after page, Fireflies, Honey, and Silk is highly entertaining, authoritative, encyclopedic, mesmerizing."
– Erich Hoyt, author of Insect Lives and The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants
"In Fireflies, Honey, and Silk, Waldbauer serves up a veritable smorgasbord of insects from around the world whose lives directly intersect our whims and desires. With wide-ranging essays, the author reveals species that not only please and inspire us, but also those we have used to nourish, adorn, and cure our bodies."
– Arthur V. Evans, author of National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America and What's Bugging You?