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Book Corner: The wonder and uses of insects explored

FIreflies, Honey and Silk

From beautiful butterflies to beeswax candles to silk shirts, they or their byproducts are everywhere. Waldbauer, a professor emeritus of entomology and author of the book “Fireflies, Honey, and Silk” (University of California Press) wants readers to know the many ways insects enrich our lives.

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INSIDE ILLINOIS, Jan. 21, 2010

Although some may see insects as a general annoyance, Gilbert Waldbauer wants the world to know they are actually beautiful and intricate, as well as a necessary part of everyday life. From beautiful butterflies to beeswax candles to silk shirts, they or their byproducts are everywhere. Waldbauer, a professor emeritus of entomology and author of the book “Fireflies, Honey, and Silk” (University of California Press) wants readers to know the many ways insects enrich our lives.

“People don’t have much of an appreciation of how valuable insects are in direct ways,” Waldbauer said. “I don’t think people know a whole lot about the direct impact of insects on us.”

He is referring to the products derived from insects, such as soap and honey. In addition, insects are used for therapy and even as jewelry, he said.

“Gilbert Waldbauer serves up a veritable smorgasbord of insects from around the world whose lives directly intersect our whims and desires,” said Arthur V. Evans, co-author of “National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America.

“With wide-ranging essays, the author reveals not only species that please and inspire us, but also those we have used to nourish, adorn and cure our bodies.”

Waldbauer’s text is paired with illustrations by James Nardi, a research scientist in entomology.

“I’m trying to write a scientifically respectable book that will be interesting to the layman, to a physician, a lawyer, a bus driver,” Waldbauer said. “And one of the ways to do that is with nice explanations. And a good explanation is frequently a story of how something happens.”

Chapters include “Insects People Like,” “Butterflies in Your Tummy” and “Satisfying the Sweet Tooth.”

Honey bees are an example of an insect we vaguely appreciate in terms of its importance, Waldbauer said.

“People know honey comes from honey bees, but they don’t know much about how the honey bees make it and all the details,” Waldbauer said.

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