Insects fascinate, repulse, and transfix us all at once. Hugh Raffles’s Insectopedia is a delightful and utterly surprising tour of the vast world that buzzes, squirms, and lives all around (and with) us.
Did you know that a spider can ride a breeze 15,000 feet into the sky—and control how, when, and where it lands? That aphids have been spotted climbing ice floes in the Arctic Ocean? That in Shanghai, crickets are trained to battle like prizefighters? Hugh Raffles’s Insectopedia is full of bewildering insights like these, and it opens with a well-chosen epigraph: “The minuscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire world.” That world—the insect world—is incomprehensibly strange and diverse. In an effort, perhaps, to reflect those qualities, Raffles peers at bugs through lenses as disparate as evolutionary biology, travel essay, and art history. Each chapter, you might say, crawls up a different sleeve.