Synopses & Reviews
Bed bugs. Few words strike such fear in the minds of travelers. In cities around the world, lurking beneath the plush blankets of otherwise pristine-looking hotel beds are tiny bloodthirsty beasts just waiting for weary wanderers to surrender to a vulnerable slumber. Though bed bugs today have infested the globe, the common bed bug is not a new pest at all. Indeed, as Brooke Borel reveals in this unusual history, this most-reviled species may date back over 250,000 years, wreaking havoc on our collective psyche while even inspiring art, literature, and musicandmdash;in addition to vexatious red welts.
In Infested, Borel introduces readers to the biological and cultural histories of these amazingly adaptive insects, and the myriad ways in which humans have responded to them. She travels to meet with scientists who are rearing bed bug coloniesandmdash;even by feeding them with their own blood (ouch!)andmdash;and to the stages of musicals performed in honor of the pests. She explores the history of bed bugs and their apparent disappearance in the 1950s after the introduction of DDT, charting how current infestations have flourished in direct response to human chemical use as well as the ease of global travel. She also introduces us to the economics of bed bug infestations, from hotels to homes to office buildings, and the expansive industry that has arisen to combat them.
Hiding during the day in the nooks and seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, wallpaper, or any clutter around a bed, bed bugs are thriving and eager for their next victim. By providing fascinating details on bed bug science and behavior as well as a captivating look into the lives of those devoted to researching or eradicating them, Infested is sure to inspire at least a nibble of respect for these tenacious creaturesandmdash;while also ensuring that you will peek beneath the sheets with prickly apprehension.
"Enlightening...a cheerful sequel to her 2009 bestseller. Ms. Stewart, who grows poison plants in her garden in Eureka, Calif., likes the dark side." New York Times
"Wicked Bugs is a fascinatingly dark look at the world of wonders that buzzes, burrows and reproduces all around us...Stewart's research is prodigious and her writing precise, whether she's telling the tale of a caterpillar that looks like a tiny Persian cat or more about fleas than you ever wanted to know. Read this book and you'll always keep your gardening gloves on...Stewart concentrates on scarily diabolical bugs, to great effect." Seattle Times
"Stewart must be among the world’s most interesting cocktail party guests. Wicked Bugs is crammed with horrid details and creepy but fascinating insect trivia...the audience will come away with newfound appreciation for the insect kingdom." Wisconsin State Journal
"I read your book, and I'm all itchy." Dave Davies, host of NPR's Fresh Air
"I was excited to see this little volume come across my desk, having read Stewart’s Wicked Plants two years ago, and it didn’t disappoint...There is a ton of well-researched, fascinating information with terrific and terrifying stories from history." Smithsonian
"When it comes to methods of torture, the insect world is quite accommodating...Ranging from verdant South American jungles to Manhattan’s cold concrete canyons, Stewart amusingly but analytically profiles the baddest bugs around in quick but attention-grabbing snapshots of little creatures that pack a lot of punch." Booklist
In this darkly comical look at the sinister side of our relationship with the natural world, Stewart has tracked down over one hundred of our worst entomological foes — creatures that infest, infect, and generally wreak havoc on human affairs. From the world’s most painful hornet, to the flies that transmit deadly diseases, to millipedes that stop traffic, to the “bookworms” that devour libraries, to the Japanese beetles munching on your roses, Wicked Bugs
delves into the extraordinary powers of six- and eight-legged creatures.
With wit, style, and exacting research, Stewart has uncovered the most terrifying and titillating stories of bugs gone wild. It’s an A to Z of insect enemies, interspersed with sections that explore bugs with kinky sex lives (“She’s Just Not That Into You”), creatures lurking in the cupboard (“Fear No Weevil”), insects eating your tomatoes (“Gardener’s Dirty Dozen”), and phobias that feed our (sometimes) irrational responses to bugs (“Have No Fear”).
Intricate and strangely beautiful etchings and drawings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs capture diabolical bugs of all shapes and sizes in this mixture of history, science, murder, and intrigue that begins — but doesn’t end — in your own backyard.
Dinosaurs, however toothy, did not rule the earthand#151;and neither do humans. But what were and are the true potentates of our planet? Insects, says Scott Richard Shawand#151;millions
of insect species. Starting in the shallow oceans of ancient Earth and ending in the far reaches of outer spaceand#151;where, Shaw proposes, insect-like aliens may have achieved similar preeminenceand#151;Planet of the Bugs
spins a sweeping account of insectsand#8217; evolution from humble arthropod ancestors into the bugs we know and love (or fear and hate) today.
Leaving no stone unturned, Shaw explores how evolutionary innovations such as small body size, wings, metamorphosis, and parasitic behavior have enabled insects to disperse widely, occupy increasingly narrow niches, and survive global catastrophes in their rise to dominance. Through buggy tales by turns bizarre and comicaland#151;from caddisflies that construct portable houses or weave silken aquatic nets to trap floating debris, to parasitic wasp larvae that develop in the blood of host insects and, by storing waste products in their rear ends, are able to postpone defecation until after they emergeand#151;he not only unearths how changes in our planetand#8217;s geology, flora, and fauna contributed to insectsand#8217; success, but also how, in return, insects came to shape terrestrial ecosystems and amplify biodiversity. Indeed, in his visits to hyperdiverse rain forests to highlight the current insect extinction crisis, Shaw reaffirms just how crucial these tiny beings are to planetary health and human survival.
In this age of honeybee die-offs and bedbugs hitching rides in the spines of library books, Planet of the Bugs charms with humor, affection, and insight into the worldand#8217;s six-legged creatures, revealing an essential importance that resonates across time and space.
Bernd Heinrich receives a letter from a severely ill friend asking if he might have a "green burial" at Heinrich's hunting camp, andand#160;the acclaimed biologist/author sets out to explore exactly how the animal world deals with the death-to-life cycle and what we can learn from the process, both ecologically and spiritually.
From one of the finest naturalist/writers of our time, a fascinating investigation of Natureand#8217;s inspiring death-to-life cycle
When a good friend with a severe illness wrote, asking if he might have his and#8220;green burialand#8221; at Bernd Heinrichand#8217;s hunting camp in Maine, it inspired the acclaimed biologist to investigate a subject that had long fascinated him. How exactly does the animal world deal with the flip side of the life cycle? And what are the lessons, ecological to spiritual, raised by a close look at how the animal world renews itself? Heinrich focuses his wholly original gaze on the fascinating doings of creatures most of us would otherwise turn away fromand#8212;field mouse burials conducted by carrion beetles; the communication strategies of ravens, and#8220;the premier northern undertakersand#8221;; and the and#8220;inadvertent teamworkand#8221; among wolves and large cats, foxes and weasels, bald eagles and nuthatches in cold-weather dispersal of prey. Heinrich reveals, too, how and where humans still play our ancient and important role as scavengers, thereby turningand#8212;not dust to dustand#8212;but life to life.
Beginning in the shallow oceans of the Cambrian Period and ending in the hyperdiverse rain forests of our own Cenozoic Era, Planet of the Bugs spins a sweeping account of the insectsand#8217; evolution from humble arthropod ancestors into the bugs we love or hate to see today. It shows how the evolutionary innovations which bombinate across the geologic agesand#151;such as small body size, wings, metamorphosis, and parasitic behaviorand#151;enabled the insects to disperse widely, occupy increasingly smaller niches, and survive global catastrophe in their rise to species dominance. Along the way, the book introduces us to a fascinating repertoire of insects, from caddisflies that weave silken aquatic nets, which they use to catch floating debris and construct portable houses, to parasitic wasp larvae that develop inside the blood of host insects and, by accumulating waste products in their rear end, defecating only after they emerge, show how itand#8217;s possible not to pee in the pool. Shaw not only explores the history of insect evolution and behavior, he also reveals how changes in Earthand#8217;s geology, flora, and fauna contributed to the insectand#8217;s success and how, in return, the insects helped shape terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity, becoming so essential that without them, our terrestrial ecosystems would be vastly diminished, if not entirely destroyed. He ultimately turns his eyes toward the stars and wonders if insect-like creatures exist on other habitable planets, but not before passionately calling attention to the current extinction crisis here on Earth, one that could potentially extinguish the majority of insects along with the rain forests they inhabit.
About the Author
BERND HEINRICHandnbsp;is an acclaimed scientist and the author of numerous books, including the best-sellingandnbsp;Winter World, Mind of the Raven, Why We Run, and The Homing Instinct.andnbsp;He writes forandnbsp;Scientific American,andnbsp;Outside,andnbsp;American Scientist, andandnbsp;Audubon,andnbsp;and has published book reviews and op-eds for theandnbsp;New York Timesandnbsp;and theandnbsp;Los Angeles Times.andnbsp;Among Heinrichand#39;s many honors isandnbsp;the 2013 PEN New England Award for Nonfiction, forandnbsp;Life Everlasting. He lives in Maine.
Table of Contents
Prologue. Time Travel with Insects
1. The Buggy Planet
2. Rise of the Arthropods
The Cambrian period, 541and#8211;485 million years ago, and the Ordovician period, 485and#8211;444 million years ago
3. Silurian Landfall
The Silurian period, 444and#8211;419 million years ago
4. Six Feet under the Moss
The Devonian period, 419and#8211;359 million years ago
5. Dancing on Air
The Carboniferous period, 359and#8211;299 million years ago
6. Paleozoic Holocaust
The Permian period, 299and#8211;252 million years ago
7. Triassic Spring
The Triassic period, 252and#8211;201 million years ago
8. Picnicking in Jurassic Park
The Jurassic period, 201and#8211;145 million years ago
9. Cretaceous Bloom and Doom
The Cretaceous period, 145and#8211;66 million years ago
10. Cenozoic Reflections
The Cenozoic era, 66 million years ago to the present day
Postscript. The Buggy Universe Hypothesis
About the Author
Read an exclusive essay by Amy Stewart