This book is great- everything the previous read on insects was not. It likewise has lots of brief sections about varied insects (and other invertebrates) but there’s better organized connections between the segments, more details, easy to understand explanations on evolution and behavior, and best yet great photographs (unless creepy crawlies make you feel uncomfortable). The book was written as a companion to Attenborough’s television series about wildlife. I’ve seen many of his documentary films but not this particular one. I actually have three of his other books, but hadn’t read any yet, kind of funny the first one I read was borrowed from the library! I had a bit of trepidation thinking it would be a word-for-word reproduction of what Attenborough had said in the film (and thus maybe not stellar as speaking comes across a bit different than writing), but not at all. The book was written in tandem however the author clarifies that he wrote it as a separate account, and the material is not all the same. (Thus I’m now more eager to read the ones I have that correspond to films I’ve seen).
So, this book tells about some tiny and remarkable creatures. It starts with the oldest known invertebrates, ones that were here before mammals even existed (and are still with us). Horseshoe crabs, scorpions, velvet worms and amblypygids- a creature I never heard of before!- it has traits like both spiders and scorpions. There’s other animals in here that seem a bridge between species, and point to common evolutionary ancestry- like wasp ants. And so many familiar ones- worms, slugs, centipedes, mites, beetles, mantids, grasshoppers, dragonflies, fleas, butterflies, bees, termites and ants etc etc. But in each case I learned new details about their lives that astonished. Months that mimic the scent of dangerous bees and sneak in to eat their honey. Butterflies whose larvae are cared for by ants but then parasitized by a wasp instead. Spiders that sling a silk lasso at passing flying insects. Another that lives underwater in a chamber made of air bubbles. Fungus gnat larvae that glow in the dark (electric blue)- now that’s something I would like to see one day. They reside in caves in New Zealand. Ants that attack other colonies and keep slaves from the rival species. I am already familiar with monarch butterfly migrations and the seventeen-year cicada (they emerged where I live last year)- but it was no less interesting to read about them. There’s so much more in this book. Insects that lay traps for or deceive each other. Others that cooperate and communicate in ways we still don’t understand- the well-designed buildings of termites are a good example. Looking up more about that led me to this. Fascinating stuff all round.