Review_Insectpedia A Brief Compendium of Insect Lore

Eric R. Eaton

Princeton University Press


ISBN: 9780691210346

Reviewed by Richard Jones

Another title for this book might be Short and sweet: understanding insects in easily digestible bite-sized pieces. As we all know, entomology is an impossibly large discipline, and getting to the bottom of it might seem the strenuous work of many lifetimes. In order to cope, entomologists specialise in broader or narrower fields, but none of us can do all of it. So here is a vade mecum of cross-subject introductions and explanations to broaden the knowledge width of expert and beginner alike.

The study of insects is a life of constant discovery (that sounds much better than an acknowledgement of my endless ignorance), and I learn something new every day. Today I learned that tsetse flies halted the southerly advance of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries, brochosomes allow cicadellid leafhoppers to coat themselves with an anti-wetting agent, and horse-guard wasps specialise in catching tabanids and botflies.

Though the book is self-admittedly brief (190 pages), the coverage is expansive, touching on all aspects of their ecology, physiology, evolution, history and interactions with humans, including entries on several influential entomologists. The author’s informal tone is inviting yet informative. I devoured the book in a sitting and now I can burp a cross-section of amazing facts at will.