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What Good Are Bugs?

What Good Are Bugs?

Insects in the Web of Life

Gilbert Waldbauer

ISBN 9780674016323

Publication date: 10/25/2004

We shriek about them, slap and spray them, and generally think of insects (when we think of them at all) as pests. Yet, if all insects, or even a critical few, were to disappear--if there were none to pollinate plants, serve as food for other animals, dispose of dead organisms, and perform other ecologically essential tasks--virtually all the ecosystems on earth, the webs of life, would unravel. This book, the first to catalogue ecologically important insects by their roles, gives us an enlightening look at how insects work in ecosystems--what they do, how they live, and how they make life as we know it possible.

In What Good Are Bugs? Gilbert Waldbauer combines anecdotes from entomological history with insights into the intimate workings of the natural world, describing the intriguing and sometimes amazing behavior of these tiny creatures. He weaves a colorful, richly textured picture of beneficial insect life 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. As entertaining as it is informative, this charmingly illustrated volume captures the full sweep of insects' integral place in the web of life.

Praise

  • 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

Author

  • Gilbert Waldbauer is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 0-15/16 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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