Bugs in Danger: Our Vanishing Bees, Butterflies, and Beetles

Bloomsbury. Nov. 2019. 176p. bibliog. index. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781547600854.
Gr 5-8–Pollination by insects is necessary for the continued existence of some 90 common foods, including apples, tomatoes, barley, and almonds, as well as cotton, in addition to alfalfa for feeding dairy cows. But insect populations all over the world are increasingly threatened by human activity, including the destruction of habitats and the use of pesticides. Kurlansky peppers his text with intriguing facts: There are nearly as many species of ladybugs as mammals, and monarch butterflies have magnetite in their bodies, which allows them to navigate as if they had compasses. His themes are anchored in Charles Darwin’s pioneering 19th-century research, as well as contemporary science. Sidebar texts elaborate on tangentially related topics, such as the huge variety of bee species or bioluminescence. Chapters include an introductory overview of the insect world, followed by separate sections covering the basic habits of and the threats faced by bees, beetles, and butterflies and the threats they face and a conclusion. One of the final chapters includes a bulleted list of ways readers can help insects. Liu’s simple line drawings are occasionally illustrative but often add little to the text. The bibliography features many books about environmental science and evolutionary biology, though only one website is noted.
VERDICT The narrative is engaging and the topic is critical but may lack universal appeal. Recommended for larger collections, especially where science-based activism is a focus.

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