Broadsides from the Other Orders
BROADSIDES FROM THE OTHER ORDERS devotes each of its thirteen chapters to a different bug familiar to all of us but appreciated by few, from gnats to crickets to daddy longlegs. Sue Hubbell is not exactly a science writer; her book records what she has found out when, having encountered a bug in some serendipitous situation, she has been inspired to ask the question, What is it up to?
In answering this question, Hubbell has done an enormous amount of reading and has talked to many entomologists, all of whom are passionate about their work (“I have never had a short interview with an entomologist,” she says). She also participated in an annual butterfly count in northern Wyoming, accompanied a purveyor of ladybugs as he collected his inventory in the Sierra Nevadas in California, and traveled to Guatemala to learn first-hand about bravo or “killer” bees.
Hubbell covers the biology, behavior, ecology, history, economics, and even politics of bugs. (In this last area, an account of public policy regarding the treatment of gypsy moths is especially interesting.) The style is sometimes intense, sometimes chatty. Hubbell’s pleasant eccentricity occasionally takes the form of a quirk: for example, she concludes her chapter on katydids with a recipe for lime cheesecake pie, the dessert she shared with the federal katydid expert during their interview. The numerous illustrations by Dimitry Schidlovsky are informative and lovely. The book includes a lengthy bibliography and a comprehensive index.
This book will leave armchair entomologists with numerous tidbits they will quote for years: that dragonflies have been known to attack hummingbirds, that water striders can be found in the middle of the ocean, or that individual silverfish live for years. It will gratify the one percent of Americans who like bugs, it will intrigue the nine percent who are indifferent to bugs, and it may even seduce some of the ninety percent who claim they hate bugs.