What's Bugging You?: A Fond Look at the Animals We Love to Hate

Overview

We are told from the time we are children that insects and spiders are pests, when the truth is that most have little or no effect on us--although the few that do are often essential to our existence. Arthur Evans suggests we take a closer look at our slapped-at, stepped-on, and otherwise ignored cohabitants, who vastly outnumber us and whose worlds often occupy spaces that we didn’t even know existed.

What’s Bugging You? brings together fifty unforgettable stories from the ...

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Overview

We are told from the time we are children that insects and spiders are pests, when the truth is that most have little or no effect on us--although the few that do are often essential to our existence. Arthur Evans suggests we take a closer look at our slapped-at, stepped-on, and otherwise ignored cohabitants, who vastly outnumber us and whose worlds often occupy spaces that we didn’t even know existed.

What’s Bugging You? brings together fifty unforgettable stories from the celebrated nature writer and entomologist’s popular Richmond Times-Dispatch column. Evans has scoured Virginia’s wild places and returned with wondrous stories about the seventeen-year sleep of the periodical cicadas, moths that evade hungry bats by sensing echolocation signals, and the luminous language of light employed by fireflies. He also visits some not-so-wild places: the little mounds of upturned soil scattered along the margins of soccer fields are the dung beetle’s calling card.

What does the world look like to a bug? Evans explores insect vision, which is both better, and worse, than that of humans (they are capable of detecting ultraviolet light, but many cannot see the color red), pausing to observe that it is its wide-set forward-looking eyes that imbue the praying mantis with "personality." He is willing to defend such oft-maligned creatures as the earwig, the tent caterpillar, and the cockroach--revealed here as a valuable scavenger, food source for other animals, and even a pollinator, that spends more time grooming itself than it does invading human space.

Evans’s search for multilegged life takes him to an enchanting assortment of locations, ranging from gleaming sandy beaches preferred by a threatened tiger beetle to the shady, leaf-strewn forest floors where a centipede digs its brood chamber--to a busy country road where Evans must dodge constant foot and vehicular traffic to photograph a spider wasp as its claims its paralyzed prey. His forays also provide the reader with a unique window on the cycles of nature. What Evans refers to as the FBI--fungus, bacteria, insects--are the chief agents in decomposition and a vital part of regeneration. Evans also takes on many issues concerning humans’ almost always destructive interaction with insect life, such as excessive mowing and clearing of wood that robs wildlife of its food and habitat, as well as harmful bug zappers that kill everything but mosquitoes.

The reader emerges from this book realizing that even seemingly mundane forms of insect and spider life present us with unexpected beauty and fascinating lifestyles.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

Steve NashUniversity of Richmond

Most of us may think we have few opportunities to see wildlife, especially in our own backyards. This book advances the charming proposition that expanding our definition of wildlife a little, to include ‘bugs,’ can open up beautiful possibilities.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813926988
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Evans works for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. He is also research associate at the Smithsonian Institution and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Evans is the author of numerous books and articles on the lives of insects and spiders, including An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles and National Wildlife Federation Filed Guide to Insect and Spiders of North America.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Prologue     1
Home and Garden Bestiaries     3
Urban Assault Beetles and Other Pantry Pests     4
Letter from an Insect Gardener     6
Insects We Love to Hate: Greenhouse Stone Crickets     9
A Bounty of Boxelder Bugs     11
Reintroducing the Earwig     14
Roly-Polies: Pillbugs and Sowbugs     17
Magnificent Mantids     20
Cockroaches 101: A Primer     22
Ants: Movers and Shakers of the Natural World     26
The Black Widow     28
On Safari in Virginia     33
On Safari in Bryan Park     34
Exploring the Grassroot Jungles of Three Lakes Park     39
Tiny Game Hunting along the James River     42
Nighttime Bug-Watching at Pocahontas State Park     44
Wet and Wild     47
The Virginia BioBlitz: A Snapshot of Biodiversity     49
Marvels of Metamorphosis     53
Caterpillars: The Long, Dark Underbelly of Butterflies and Moths     54
America's First Insect: The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail     57
Some Caterpillars Lead "In Tents" Lives     58
Life on the Edge: Monarch Butterflies     60
Out ona Limb: Fall Webworms     62
For All You Moth-ers Out There!     63
Tales of Mulberries and Moths     65
Question Marks Punctuate the First Warm Days of Spring     67
Bodacious Beetles     71
The Age of Beetles     72
Eastern Hercules Beetles: Armed, but Not Dangerous     76
Beetles Must Bark Up the Right Tree for Winter     77
Counting Tigers on Virginia's Eastern Shore     79
Invasion of the Body Snatchers     83
Striking It Rich with Oil Beetles     86
Stings and Wings     91
A Tale of Predator and Prey     92
Carpenter Bees Lead Boring Lives     94
The Buzz on Bumblebees     97
The Giant Hornet, a Wasp's Wasp     100
The Paper Trail Starts Here     103
Mudslingers and Spider Killers     105
Bugs, Spiders, and Other Musings     109
Scratching That 17-Year Itch     110
And Along Came a Spider     113
For Doodlebugs, Life is the Pits     116
Daddy Longlegs     118
Dazzling Dragons and Damsels     122
Katydid, or Did She?     128
A "Bug Zapper Bites Man" Story     129
Dog-days Are Here Again!     131
What's in a Word?     133
The Eyes Have It     135
Bugs Matter!     137
Take a Pollinator to Lunch     139
Crayfishes, Crawfishes, and Mudbugs     141
Bugs in Focus: The Art of Making Little Things Big     143
Loving Lichens     147
Epilogue     151
Suggested Readings     153
Suggested Web Sites     155
Notes on the Original Articles     156
Index     159
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