Cover_A Bugs World

Erica McAlister

Wren & Rook


ISBN: 9781526362988

Reviewed by Richard Jones

Catch ’em young Erica. Tempt them with key facts, some almost unbelievable and some utterly disgusting. Titillate and tantalise them. Then slowly reel them in. From her secret laboratory in a dormant volcano, or maybe in the vaults of the Natural History Museum, Dr McAlister has a dastardly master plan to indoctrinate the children of the world into becoming entomologists, and it’s useless to resist.

Some entomologists decry the use of the word ‘bug’ to mean any small mean creepy-crawly, but in a science often mired in jargon, it’s a friendly, inclusive and easily understandable term encompassing insects, arachnids, woodlice, myriapods, worms, snails, snartlegogs, and more. And if the flygirl (her Twitter alias) is happy to use it, then the word’s authority is now assured.

Erica covers all groups of invertebrates here, and all aspects of their lives and life histories — from the snout moth living in sloth fur and the banana slug (looks like a banana, not flavoured like one) to sadly extinct trilobites, and long-revered dung beetles. Nevertheless, I think I can still detect a firm fondness for flies as she talks lovingly about camel nose bots, blind Croatian cave gnats, Genghis Khan’s debriding maggots, and the V-2 adventures of (turn on the creepy echo sound effect) Drosophila in space. And who but a dipterist would insinuate the word ‘haltere’ into the glossary at the back? Nice touch Dr McAlister!

Children love insects anyway, at least until that key age around the move to secondary school when parental bias and phobic discrimination can start to influence. If you think any children you know are in danger of forgetting their love of minibeasts, then give them this book as an antidote. And meanwhile Dr McAlister will laugh from her hidden lair, and thank you for being one of her indoctrination minions.