cover image Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

Gilbert Waldbauer. University of California Press, $25.95 (233pp) ISBN 978-0-520-25883-9

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.