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There may be no insect with a worse reputation than the wasp, and none guarding so many undiscovered wonders.
Where bees and ants have long been the darlings of the insect world, wasps are much older, cleverer and more diverse. They are the bee’s evolutionary ancestors – flying 100 million years earlier – and today they are just as essential for the survival of our environment. A bee, ecologist Professor Seirian Sumner argues, is just a wasp that has forgotten how to hunt.
For readers of Entangled Life, Other Minds and The Gospel of Eels, this is a book to upturn your expectations about one overlooked animal and the wider architecture of our natural world.
With endless surprises, this book might teach you about the wasps that spend their entire lives sealed inside a fig, about stinging wasps, about parasitic wasps, about wasps that turn cockroaches into living zombies, about how wasps taught us to make paper.
It offers up a maligned insect in all its diverse, unexpected splendour; as both predator and pollinator, the wasp is an essential pest controller worldwide. Inside their sophisticated social worlds is the best model we have for the earth’s major evolutionary transitions. In their understudied biology are clues to progressing medicine, including a possible cure for cancer.
The closer you look at these spurned, winged insects – both custodians and bouncers of our planet – the more you see. Their secrets have so far gone mostly untapped, but the potential of the wasp is endless.