Thursday, 12 May 2022

Book Review - Insectpedia - Princeton University Press


      I have been very much enamoured of the "Pedia" series from Princeton University Press and this latest edition sails along in the tradition of its forerunners, presenting facts in brief (yet complete) form, while engaging in a little whimsy at the same time. It takes a deft touch to straddle the unlikely partners of science and humour but Eric Eaton has proven himself to be a master of the task.
     Each of the "Pedia" books are like an extended dictionary, and go from A to Z in traditional fashion, in this case beginning with "Acarinaria" and ending with "Zoos, Insect." Along the way there is much to learn and entertaining commentary to be enjoyed.
    I was particularly struck that Eaton weaves social commentary into discussions of science. Let me give you an example from page 74 on Gynandromorphs, "In an era when we are finally recognizing and respecting human beings who identify as nonbinary, it helps to remember that in nature, male and female exist in a variety of ways and not always separately." Amen to that!
     It is well known to all that fruit flies in the genus Drosophila have been the lab choice for countless research projects because we Homo sapiens share 60% of our DNA with Drosophila melanogaster, and 75% of the genes known to cause human diseases can be found in fruit flies. There are doubtless reactionary politicians or religious fundamentalists who would reject this science, but that makes it no less true.
     Eaton pays fitting tribute to Margaret James Strickland Collins who became the first black female entomologist and was a full professor at Howard University, a remarkable achievement when it was difficult for any woman to be acknowledged as a scientist, let alone a woman of colour facing the double tyranny of a general rejection of women of intellect and toxic racism.
     The issue of pesticides has long been controversial, and continues to be so, as humans employ short-sighted, short-term solutions to complex issues. Insects develop resistance to toxins necessitating the application of ever more potent poisons, to which the targeted insects acquire further immunity. This is termed the "Pesticide Treadmill," as coined by Robert van den Bosch in his book The Pesticide Conspiracy. Despite mountains of evidence that indiscriminate use (abuse) of pesticides is counter-productive, we seem to be incapable of dismounting from this treadmill.
     As in all things, human influence looms large. Eaton's final paragraph in the Afterword leaves an impression with me, and no doubt will with you.
"Meanwhile transition from a pest -killing mentality to an interest in the conservation of insect diversity must overcome the inertia of profit-making enterprise, and accommodate endeavours that are necessary for the survival of the entire ecosystem. The private homeowner, plant nursery manager, landscape company, city planner, rural farmer and others, can all have a hand in promoting a new paradigm of coexistence with our six-legged friends. It can happen. It has to."
     The book is illustrated throughout by Amy Jean Porter, whose line drawings add immeasurably to the delight of this little volume. 
     As stated above I am a great fan of this series; each one reinforces the pleasure, perhaps none more than this one. I recommend it highly.

Insectpedia, A Brief Compendium of Insect Lore
Eric R. Eaton
Hardcover - US$16.95 - ISBN 9780691213046
200 pages - 51 black-and-white illustrations - 4.5 x 6.75 inches (11.25 x 16.875 cm)
Publication date: 3 May, 2022

 
David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.

48 comments:

  1. It seams to be a book with brain and heart (as we say). Your post is with brain and heart too, and I whish the book was translated to Danish (knowing that my language is too small for that).
    Enjoy it. Hugs Lisbeth

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pesticides are everywhere...and human beings are constantly exposed to those harmful chemicals...no wonder there are more and more people suffering from all sorts of cancers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Many thanks. This sounds to be up my (very broad) reading street.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hari OM
    Oh yes, this one's for me! Ta David, always enjoy your reviews, even if the book is not in my list... YAM xx

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ce livre a l'air différents des autres, pas juste des fiches sur les insectes. Il doit être intéressant à lire. Bonne journée

    ReplyDelete
  6. ...when I was in college I took on entomology class. It wasn't a favorite, but I passed.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You have captured my interest in this series. Truer words were never spoken and it is a destructive habit we absolutely need to get over: “… humans employ short-sighted, short-term solutions to complex issues.”

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you David - Lindsay has been asking me what I want as a present for my forthcoming birthday and you have given me the answer!

    Best wishes - - - Richard

    ReplyDelete
  9. Must be very interesting !
    Insects are essential to our lives...
    Have a nice day !
    Anna

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yes pesticides sure are a problem as big as the ones to get killed...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi David - another Princeton book I'd love to look at and read at some stage - I see one of our big bookshops in London holds copies of it ... so when I'm back up in London at some stage I could take a look. Excellent review - thanks ... cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fascinating book and topic!....We don't understand the importance of insects in our daily life, and how they help us....I avoid every pesticide in my vegetable garden and I do things manually, but when I need to protect my veggies, I use only natural things that disrupt their cycle....I need to eat my Swiss Chards!!.........Abrazotes, Marcela

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is a brilliant book and your review of it outstanding. So much important information. Thanks Dave.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Estimado amigo, David, gran reseña la que aportas sobre este y bien merecido volumen de Erik Eaton, todo un compendio fascinante sobre ese complicado y universal mundo. A decir verdad, tu aporte, perfectamente desarrollado, no deja al respecto ninguna duda de esa fantástica enciclopedia. Siempre, un placer, conocer tan buenas y detalladas publicaciones; en mundo cada vez más perverso, creado por el ser humano, en pro de sus propios beneficios y en detrimento de los otros habitantes que pueblan y compartimos este hermoso planeta llamado tierra.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu siempre compadre y amigo Juan.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello! it's nice to pop in after being away for awhile. Sounds like an interesting read. When we were in Florida last winter we saw a sign about genetically modified mosquitoes which sounded pretty scary to me! I haven't done the research to learn what that was all about however. Enjoy the rest of your week!

    ReplyDelete
  16. It sounds like a wonderful book, David. I agree with Lisbeth, but I would have it translated in Norwegian.
    Thank you for the review.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

    ReplyDelete
  17. The line drawing is unique and shows the essence of the insect.

    ReplyDelete
  18. This book sounds great David. Insects are so fascinating, if nothing else, there are so many interesting ones. I love how you can always discover something you haven't seen before if you look closely. and speaking of insects, my new bees arrived today, and it was quite an adventure since the PO damaged the shipping containers they were in. I won't babble on too long, but I will share this weekend just in case you are still interested in insects after reading this volume. Happy end of the week. Hugs-Erika

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck with your new bees, Erica. It has been a devastating year for bee keepers here too.

      Delete
    2. And yes I do know your name is spelled Erika!

      Delete
  19. Very interesting. Thanks for this review,

    ReplyDelete
  20. Un libro interesante que me gustaría tener. Abrazos y gracias.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sounds like the kind of book I'd enjoy. I couldn't agree more about pesticides. We recently needed to get some help in our garden and the man who came took a quick look around and said to my horror with a sweep of his arm, "We'll spray all this and get it into shape." Not happening here on my watch.

    ReplyDelete
  22. If you come back and read this, Helen, please know that I keep attempting to leave comments on your blog, but they never appear. Blogger is playing games these days in ways that are baffling and seemingly without purpose. I am having my greatest issues with Australian and New Zealand blogs. I will keep trying.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I enjoy your book reviews, David. Science, humor, political commentary and delightful drawings sound like a winning combination.

    ReplyDelete
  24. You really do write the best reviews, David. Even the books I don't really have an interest in, you make sound so interesting! That's a gift. (And you're honest, too -- if you don't like something. That's good, too.)

    ReplyDelete
  25. The kind of books I like to have lying around so I can dip into them in any odd moment. The world of insects always seems to take place on an entirely different planet, where slightly different rules apply.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello. So many factors contribute to the disappearance of insects. And, insect extermination affects several other species. Sad thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Without insects the entire ecosystem will collapse.

      Delete
  27. Un libro muy interesante. En el huerto usamos las ortigas maceradas como repelente de plagas.
    Buen fin de semana. David.
    Un abrazo.

    ReplyDelete
  28. An encyclopedia of human errors might be another topic -- that's what your review made me think of. How many ways our species has been mistaken, and powerfully acted on our errors.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. Sounds like a good book to have! I'll go put it on my wish list! Thanks for the review!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Brief, complete, informative, great illustrations and a touch of whimsy -- that sounds like my kind if read. Thank you for sharing this review!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wow great new blog from blogger!I think Ihave to do some changes too !About insects..Ohh yes it is that time now!I live now( have moved to a new apartment)on the third floor ,not much insect only those Tipuloidea!!Cute i think!Have a good weekend David!xxx

    ReplyDelete
  32. David - thanks for your recent comment on my blog - I do believe the mystery bird was a Yellow Wagtail, judging from the pictures I have seen on the web. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Conheci teu blog agora e já te sigo. Achei muito interessante o assunto, ótima resenha de livro. Te convido a conhecer meu blog e seguir. Abraços ;) https://botecodasletras2.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  34. I’m not surprised that a book about insects goes into conservation and the problems with pesticides. These are such huge factors in the survival of insects and birds, and everything above them in the food chain.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Dear David,
    That sounds like a very committed book author and a lot of interest in topics that are also relevant for you and me. Incidentally, for me the central sentence today is: "There are doubtless reactionary politicians or religious fundamentalists who would reject this science, but that makes it no less true." It's a shame that there are people who believe every word these people say, and it's a shame that there are others who are taken in by the pesticide advertising. It makes me happy that the number of those who care about the earth is gradually increasing after all. Are we fast enough?
    Have a nice Sunday and a wonderful new week!
    Traude
    https://rostrose.blogspot.com/2022/05/monatsruckblick-auf-den-april-teil-2.html

    ReplyDelete
  36. Excellent review, seems to be a very interesting book.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Insects have been decimated by humans as anyone who has been around for 50 - 70 years knows well. There was a time when any car trip had your windshield covered with bugs. Now, none or just a few. We are so shortsighted, Christianity in particular claimed humans as the epitome of creation as if only we matter. So we destroy what annoys us and while doing so destroy the underpinnings of life itself. I raised my children and grandchildren to not kill things, like bugs, just because they could telling them that other creatures deserve their little lives the same as us.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you for this book review David.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Sounds like a fascinating read.

    I enjoyed the review, David.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Many thanks for your review.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.

Followers