Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

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The ink our ancestors wrote with, the beeswax in altar candles, the honey on our toast, the silk we wear. This enchanting book is a highly entertaining exploration of the myriad ways insects have enriched our lives–culturally, economically, and aesthetically. Entomologist and writer Gilbert Waldbauer describes in loving, colorful detail how many of the valuable products insects have given us are made, how they were discovered, and how they have been used through time and across cultures. Along the way, he takes us on a captivating ramble through many far-flung corners of history, mythology, poetry, literature, medicine, ecology, forensics, and more. Enlivened with personal anecdotes from Waldbauer's distinguished career as an entomologist, the book also describes surprising everyday encounters we all experience that were made possible by insects. From butterfly gardens and fly-fishing to insects as jewelry and sex pheromones, this is an eye-opening ode to the wonder of insects that illuminates our extraordinary and essential relationship with the natural world.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Abuzz with obscure lore about a host of bugs that are as accommodating to humans as bedbugs, fleas, and mosquitoes are annoying."--Natural History

"Accessible, easy prose ready-made for a broad, curious audience."--Publishers Weekly

"Reading this book is like sitting at the feet of a favourite uncle on a winter evening beside a crackling fire."--New Scientist

"An easy-to-read book that is interesting and entertaining."--Foreword

Natural History
“Abuzz with obscure lore about a host of bugs that are as accommodating to humans as bedbugs, fleas, and mosquitoes are annoying.”
New Scientist
“Reading this book is like sitting at the feet of a favourite uncle on a winter evening beside a crackling fire.”
“An easy-to-read book that is interesting and entertaining.”
Audubon Magazine
“Professional yet conversational, Waldbauer’s essays are an homage to a world that first fascinated him as a child.”
Publishers Weekly
Univ. of Illinois entomologist Waldbauer (A Walk around the Pond) explores the interactions between humans and insects, particularly human uses of insects, in accessible, easy prose ready-made for a broad, curious audience. From silk moth caterpillars, which have produced fine threads used in fabric for thousands of years, to the cochineal insects used to dye fabrics, to bees' honey and wax, insects have been cultivated by humans for a wide range of purposes-including internal use, " both rationally and superstitiously as cures and palliatives for almost any human ailment that you can think of." The strong mandibles of leaf-cutter ants, for instance, make them a functional substitute for sutures, and "maggot therapy" is used for biodebridement-the clearing away of dead tissue. Adventurous readers will be especially intrigued by Waldbauer's section on edible insects. With interesting anecdotes and plenty of trivia, this scientific overview should suit casual science fans.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520268074
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 12/7/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 1,467,139
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Gilbert Waldbauer is Emeritus Professor of Entomology at the University of Illinois. He is the author of many books on insects including
Insights from
, What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us, The Handy Bug Answer Book, and A Walk Around the Pond:
Insects in and over the Water

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Insects People Like
II. The Silk We Wear
III. Dyeing the Cloth
IV. Baubles, Bracelets, and Anklets
V. Candles, Shellac, and Sealing Wax
VI. Paper and
VII. Butterflies in Your Tummy
VIII. Satisfying the Sweet Tooth
IX. Cures and Nostrums
Insect Pets and Performers

Epilogue. The Ecological Context
Selected References


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