Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

Fireflies, Honey, and Silk

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

My fascination with insects began on a sunny winter day during grade school in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when I found a big brown cocoon on an apple tree. I had heard that some insects survive the winter snugly encased in silken cocoons, but I wasn’t certain that this thing was a cocoon and hadn’t the vaguest idea of what kind of insect might emerge from it in the spring. Nevertheless, I took it home and put it in a glass jar with a metal top pierced with air holes. Weeks later, the most beautiful and amazing insect I had ever seen emerged from it. Its broad wings spanned at least 5 inches and were gorgeously patterned with red, white, black, and a little violet. the antennae were big and featherlike. (I later learned that this is characteristic of males of many moths.) I thought it was a butterfly, but my teacher told me that it was a cecropia moth and that butterflies don’t spin cocoons. (Now I know that a few actually do.) From that moment on I was hooked on natural history, especially insects. I began a collection and identified grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, and other insects with Frank Lutz’s splendid Field Book of Insects, first published in 1918 but still useful today.

In June 1946, my graduating class at Central High School in Bridgeport . . .

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