by Mark Kurlansky; illus. by Jia Liu
176 pages; ages 8 - 12
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2019
“If we care about the health of our planet, we can’t choose which animals’ lives we want to save,” writes author Mark Kurlansky. “We have to care about them all.” And that includes insects, because they play an important role in the earth’s ecology. But there’s a problem: populations of fireflies, bees, butterflies, and ladybugs have been declining.
Kurlansky divides his book into four parts. In part one, he introduces the insect world, shows how bugs fit in and highlights their diversity. He talks about the biggest threats to insects: habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and climate change. Then he talks about how insects evolved with plants – not just bees, but butterflies, beetles, and flies. And he shares the secret of why it’s so hard to sneak up on a fly.
Part two focuses on bees. There are a lot of kinds of bees, he writes. About 25,000 bee species have been catalogued and scientists have discovered another 40,000 that have yet to be named. He takes a close look at bee life, focusing on honey bees – which were introduced into North America in 1622 by Europeans. At that time there were somewhere near 5,000 native bee species. Unfortunately, Kurlansky doesn’t address the impact of introduced honey bees on native bees. This is a shame, because native bees pollinate many of the crops we eat.
In the third part, Kurlansky introduces beetles as pollinators and beneficial (pest-controlling) insects. Native ladybug populations are in decline even as gardeners and farmers seek alternatives to insecticides. Even fireflies are vanishing.
Part four is all about the leps: butterflies and moths. He highlights monarchs, introduces endangered species, and discusses efforts to save butterflies. In the final chapters he mentions more insects that are endangered: dragonflies, grasshoppers, stoneflies. Individual insects may be small, but their impact in ecological systems is profound. A decline in insect population affects entire food webs.
The biggest problem, by far, is the impact of humans on natural ecosystems. There are, fortunately, things everyone can do to keep the world a safe place for bugs:
- stop squashing bugs when you see them!
- grow flowers to attract pollinators.
- if you have fireflies, turn off floodlights at night.
- Stop Using Pesticides!
- leave leaf litter and twigs on the ground beneath trees.
Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.