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- Published on Amazon.com
When I read the book The Strange Lives of Familiar Insects by Edwin Teale, it made me think of all the times I've wandered in the forest without realizing how many or what kind of insects were around me. Insects have existed since prehistoric times due to the fact they have been able to adapt and adjust to changing living conditions. Insects are everywhere, from the tropics to the poles, to the caves and the waters. For instance, the "ice bug" or rather known as Grylloblatta campodeiformis is found at 5400 - 8600 feet whereas other insects would become handicapped in such cold weather.
Insects differ than humans and animals. They have the weirdest behavior and way of living. They are abundant since they do not eat a lot of food, have a short life cycle, and are able to reproduce quickly. All insects go through many steps from birth till death. An insect is born by eggs on land or underwater. A caterpillar is born amongst land whereas a dragonfly is born underwater as a nymph. It can breathe underwater by the gills it has. Next, it grows by molting in which it becomes an adult by having a fixed size. Unlike humans who have stretchable skin, insects can not stretch their coating in which they have to molt and leave their skin and grow another one. Chitin is remarkable because it can withstand water, alcohol, and certain acids.
In general, Teale is able to start off with a general idea of insects and narrow it down to the ones that seem the most familiar. His book is divided into three parts. The first part talks about the strangeness of insect life. He mentions many insects, jumping from one to the next which more or less confused me since he was talking about so many things.
The second part talks about the life of an insect from the day it is born till death. Insects have certain ways to eat their food, avoid enemies, see, hear, smell, touch, taste, breathe, communicate, and die. Teale emphasizes the importance of these actions which is quite fascinating. This section is what I liked most from this book because he picks a certain behavior and elaborates on it. Not only on the basic habits they have, but on every step leading to death. He mentions about how an insect smells by the use of its antenna and how insects hear by their ears or the hairs that vibrate to sound. His in depth description gives the reader a feel of how insects actually live their lives.
For instance, on page 45, Dr, Karl von Frisch studied how bees communicate with one another. His work can be found in his book, The Dancing Bees. "When a worker finds a rich source of nectar in the fields, Dr. von Frisch discovered, it performs a tripping little dance on the comb within the hive. Other workers crowd around it. If the nectar is less than 100 yards from the hive, the scout engages in a round dance; if it is farther away, it performs a more elaborate tail-wagging dance." Teale makes people more aware about insects, not only viewing them as creepy creatures but that there is more to them than meets the eye. They have many humanistic characteristics in which they can be seen just as smart as humans. Another part that amazed me was the concept that insects are able to remember things, even though it is for a very short amount of time. Bees, wasps, and ants have the best memories of all.
The last section of the book deals with the lives of familiar insects which are the may fly, cricket, cinch bug, housefly, dragonfly, praying mantis, lacewing fly, cicada-killer wasp, ladybird beetle, termite, ant, aphid, monarch butterfly, and paper-making wasp. He chose fourteen insects, each belonging to different Orders.
Overall, the book is well-written and not only does Teale describe insects, he emphasizes every phase these insects go through. There are pictures in black and white by the author to represent the insects he mentions. This book goes into great-depth of their behavior but is easily understandable. I highly recommend this book to grasp the understanding that insects are quite interesting. The stereotypical view of insects is that they are creepy critters but by reading Teale's insights, he can change your perspective. I enjoyed the book since it is mostly easy to follow and gives a better understanding about insects. I was one of those people who also didn't like insects, let alone have one even come near me. I viewed them as weird creatures that existed only because they were just there. After reading his work, I've realized that these insects are smart with many skills that are similar to humans but Teale has not changed one idea of mines which is I still prefer not to hold a cockroach in my hand.