Insects that are the least bit social may gather in modest groups, like the dozen or so sawfly larvae feeding on a pine needle, or they may form huge masses, like a swarm of migratory locusts in Africa or a cloud of mayflies at the edge of a midwestern lake or river. Why these insects get together and what they get out of their associations are questions finely and fully considered in this learned and entertaining look at the group behavior and social lives of a wide array of bugs.
The groups that Gilbert Waldbauer discusses here are not as complex or tightly organized as the better-known societies of termites, wasps, ants, and bees. Some, like the mayflies, come together merely because they emerge from the water in the same place at the same time. But others, like swarms of locusts, are loosely organized, the individual insects congregating to migrate together for distances of hundreds of miles. And yet others form a simple cooperative society, such as the colony of tent caterpillars that weaves a silken tent to house the whole group.
Waldbauer tells us how individuals in these and other insect aggregations communicate (or don't), how they coordinate their efforts, how some congregate the better to mate, how some groups improve the temperature and humidity of their microenvironment, and how others safeguard themselves (or the future of their kind) by amassing in such vast numbers as to confound predators.
As engaging and authoritative as Waldbauer's previous books, Millions of Monarchs, Bunches of Beetles will enlighten and delight those who know their insects well and those who wish to know them better.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Waldbauer's delightful book is the enthusiasm with which it is written. A lifetime's involvement with what for many of us are mere pesky little critters has not dulled his pleasure in chronicling their variety or his amazement at their strangeness. He revels in the natural world.
Although it was written by an entomologist...the book is not for the strictly scientifically oriented. Rather, this book reads like a compendium of insect stories, one interesting tale after another...A remarkable read.
Gilbert Waldbauer has addressed a broad audience to explain how and why insect aggregations occur, and to what extent these associations may involve crude co-operation and communication...Waldbauer cites a fascinating range of examples, some familiar and some not, [in] an immensely enjoyable book. A great richness of information is presented in a relaxed and accessible way without compromising the scientific complexity of some of the areas explored. Clearly intrigued by his subject and its ramifications, Waldbauer conveys his enthusiasm and love for natural history in its most catholic form with vivacity, flair and a broad brush.
Clear writing, a storyteller's grace and consummate mastery of his subject make entomologist Gilbert Waldbauer's Millions of Monarchs, Bunches of Beetles a fascinating incursion into the strange, fabulous and complex world of insects. As entertaining as he is informative, Waldbauer introduces us to groups of insects who use numbers to increase their chances for mating, surviving predators, overcoming prey or coping with weather...His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, and he communicates far-reaching knowledge without resorting to jargon...[Millions of Monarchs, Bunches of Beetles] stimulates and satisfies the reader's sense of wonder.
Interesting facts and ideas are stacked one on top of another. This is not technical stuff: It's an entertaining, interesting book and an easy read that will be enjoyed by a wide audience. Getting food, avoiding predators, finding mates, and other matters essential to the survival of species are topics drawn out of this background of remarkable animal aggregations. A useful index and an extensive bibliography are helpful.
A delightful and informative romp with retired University of Illinois professor Gilbert Waldbauer through his favorite bug-hunting venues. Along the way, you will discover that Mr. Waldbauer has never outgrown his childlike enthusiasm for discovery--hence the title--nor his seriousness about good science--hence the publisher...Linking these two is the author's appreciation for enticing stories accumulated over a professional lifetime. He skillfully weaves eager curiosity, clear science and captivating tales to produce a compact book certain to please even the most casual observer of the world of these small creatures that creep, crawl, fly or burrow all around us.
Every chapter is so full of fascination, so well conveyed in clear, congenial, and precise prose, that many readers may want to audit professor Waldbauer's next course.
The social structures formed by ants and bees are well documented. Waldbauer, however, concerns himself with the unsung insects whose simple group habits define less-organized societies.
Every chapter is so full of fascination, that many readers may want to audit professor Waldbauer's next course. The overall topic is occasionally social insects: how and why do they get together when they do? Their reasons include finding mates, species self-defense, subduing prey, going where the food is, and even controlling their own microclimates--that's why tent caterpillars make tents. Waldbauer unfolds all this buggy cooperation in absorbing accounts of particular species.
In this, his third popularization of insect life, retired academic Waldbauer focuses on the group behavior of species less well described than ants or honeybees but no less interesting--ladybugs and locusts, mayflies and butterflies, wasps, termites, and others...Clearly a volume to satisfy idle curiosity, from a scholar and a gentleman ever ready to credit the work of colleagues, while at the same time suggesting any number of topics that future scholars might pursue to further our understanding of evolution and the survival of so many, many bugs.
Waldbauer's gentle but enthralling prose leads the reader to see beyond the shock of the heaving crawling mass, to glimpse beneath at the underlying biology of some of nature's most fascinating creatures.
Gilbert Waldbauer writes to share his passion for insects. The insects of an unembellished prose style make his books accessible to the general naturalist and the specialist alike.
- 272 pages
- 5-7/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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