"The majority of green plants are pollinated by insects," says Waldbauer, professor emeritus of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Without the insects, most of these plants would not exist. Insects are involved in the population control of other insects and of vertebrates. They are very important in cleaning up the environment by their recycling of dung as well as dead animals and plants."
The book, published by the Harvard University Press, is subtitled "Insects in the Web of Life." Waldbauer's entertaining approach draws from illuminating stories about many of the 900,000 known species of insects. The writing is mostly jargon free but filled with easy-to-understand scientific details.
"This book may be the first to catalog, on such an all-encompassing scale, the ecology of insects by their roles," Waldbauer said. "I wanted to tell what insects do, how they live and how they contribute to our lives and the world around us."
The book's four sections cover insects "Helping Plants," "Helping Animals," "Limiting Population Growth" and "Cleaning Up." Examples drawn from his research and observations and that of his Illinois colleagues and other scientists fill the book.
Beetles, flies, moths, butterflies and bees, he notes, are among the 275,000 species of insects -- most of them relying on vision and smell -- that pollinate flowering plants. Some 300,000 species eat other insects. As an example, he vividly tells how North American dragonflies capture and chew their prey.
Waldbauer also tells how insects limit production and plant growth.
For example, the Asian long-horned beetle, a recent invader of many U.S. broad-leaf tree species, bores in the wood, feeds on the bark of twigs and mat
Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign