Buzzy New Book Makes Case for Why We Need Insects

"Buzz, Sting, Bite" celebrates the pests we love to hate

By Michael Berry

July 7, 2019

Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects

 When warm weather arrives, bare skin becomes a bull's-eye for wasps, gnats, horseflies, and other annoying arthropods. It can be hard to remember the benefits of sharing the biosphere with up to 10 quintillion insects.

In Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects (Simon & Schuster, 2019), Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson comes to the defense of the "tiny critters that all do their little bit to save your life, every single day." A professor of conservation biology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Sverdrup-Thygeson is a lively, witty, and discerning guide through the scientific lore surrounding some of the tiniest—though still very powerful—organisms on Earth.

Whether spotlighting the gall wasps that provided the ink on the Declaration of Independence, the fruit flies that have made Nobel Prize–winning research possible, or the midges that give us chocolate, each chapter makes the case that we need insects more than they need us. Sverdrup-Thygeson's tone is almost exclusively positive, celebrating giant bumblebees as pollinators, dung beetles as cleaners, and mealworms as protein sources. Even mosquitoes get props for serving as food for birds, bats, and other animals. The occasional lament that climate change is wreaking havoc upon many insect species adds an important note of urgency.

Buzz, Sting, Bite isn't a deep dive into entomology. Rather, it's a zippy, enjoyable sampler of the subject, suitable for bio-curious teens and adults alike—and it provides a convincing argument for showing a little restraint before reaching for the flyswatter.

This article appeared in the July/August 2019 edition with the headline "For the Love of Bugs."