Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart – Book Review

Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart
Published by Algonquin Books, an imprint of Workman

Fresh off of her delightfully sinister book Wicked Plants, Amy Stewart has returned with a fascinating look at the most painful, destructive, and deadly of all bugs. The book is organized in short essays about each of 220-odd bugs, with interspersing chapters on buggy trends like zombies, garden pests, and bugs with brutal mating habits.

Each chapter is almost more intriguing than the last. On page 134, for instance, the reader learns that Formosan termites were actually the cause of much of the damage in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The seams of the floodwalls were constructed from sugarcane waste, a favorite treat of the Formosans. Worse, due to the Formosan’s building structures, the flood waters failed to wipe them out, which left the termites free to attack abandoned structures after the waters receded. What I want to know is, why is this the first time I’ve ever heard that piece of information?

Aside from making me slightly cranky and suspicious, Wicked Bugs is a joy to read. Really, what more can you ask from a book than that it make you remark out loud, “Oh Charles Darwin, you’re so dumb?” (read the entry on the Bombardier Beetle and you’ll understand). You might want to avoid reading it with other people around, though, unless you want to be That Person who constantly remarks on the interesting facts in your book. I’m sure my husband would have preferred to concentrate on what he was reading rather than what I was reading. If I had just one wish, though, it is that Stewart would have included a postscript on some of the reasons these bugs are actually valuable parts of our ecosystem, because after reading all of the terrible things they do to us, I was about ready to suggest we just get rid of them all, ASAP.

If you like to learn new, not always necessarily useful things, then Amy Stewart is like candy for your brain. Yum. Recommended.

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