Gilbert Waldbauer is Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Entomologist Waldbauer (What Good Are Bugs?) profiles a rogue’s gallery of unhealthful, unprofitable and unsavory creatures from the mosquito and house fly to an array of agricultural scourges. From their ingenious strategies for wreaking havoc and evading retribution from predators, toxic plant chemicals, insecticides and eradication programs, he gleans lessons about the Darwinian struggle for survival and the complex, easily upset balance of ecosystems. Waldbauer’s lucid, engaging style, informed by accessible discussions of his and other scientists’ research, maintains a lab-coated tone of interested objectivity. Still, there’s a fine line between the wonder of life and the horror of life, and it’s pretty much erased when Waldbauer writes of New England towns buried by gypsy moth caterpillars, reviews case studies of humans infested with flesh-eating screwworm maggots, or ticks off the list of insect parts the government tolerates in processed foods (tomato sauces can contain “thirty fly eggs, fifteen fly eggs and one maggot, or two maggots”). Readers may therefore find his lessons on how pests are eradicated – by siccing ladybug predators on them, stamping out their fertility with swarms of radiation-sterilized males or simply torching them with flame throwers – grimly satisfying indeed.

Books in order of publication:

Insects Through the Seasons1996
The Handy Bug Answer Book1998
The Birder’s Bug Book2000
Millions of Monarchs, Bunches of Beetles: How Bugs Find Strength in Numbers2000
What Good Are Bugs?: Insects in the Web of Life2003
Insights From Insects: What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us2005
A Walk Around The Pond: Insects In And Over The Water2006
Fireflies, Honey, and Silk2009
How Not to Be Eaten: The Insects Fight Back2012