“Nature’s torture-porn: the grotesque truth about wasps
“Seemingly evil, wasps broke Darwin’s faith in a benevolent god. Now comes the pro-wasp propaganda: Seirian Sumner’s new book, Endless Forms
“Nature is obscene and horrifying and we must win our war against it at all costs. Take, for example, the many species of parasitoid wasp, which lay their eggs in a living host such as a caterpillar. The egg hatches and the baby wasp eats its way out of the still-living victim. Charles Darwin himself, in a famous letter, thought the existence of these monsters very hard to reconcile with the idea of a benevolent God.
“In this book, however, we are cheerfully assured that any intelligent creator of life on Earth must have had “an inordinate fondness” for them; that a spider having its abdomen munched away from the inside by such a waspling doesn’t feel any pain; and in general that wasps display “some of evolution’s wildest and most impressive work”. The suspicious reader might even begin to wonder: “Did… did a wasp write this?””
“In Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps, the celebrated British entomologist and modern-day wasp whisperer Seirian Sumner invites readers on a revelatory, as well as highly entertaining, journey to discover the beauty, vast diversity and critical functions of the “most enigmatic of insects.” Throughout history, wasps have been misunderstood and compared unfavorably to their cuter cousins, bees. Alert to society’s cultural fear of wasps and general lack of understanding of their ecological contributions, Sumner’s debut sets out to rehabilitate these ancient insects to their rightful place as admired and valuable members of the insect kingdom.”
“Sumner (behavioral ecology, Univ. Coll. London) argues that wasps are the least-loved, most enigmatic of insects. Designed as a defense of wasps, this book explores the lifespan, social behavior, and crucial roles these insects play in earth’s ecology. She uses pasta—yes, pasta—as a way to explain evolution, the forms of a potato to explain pleiotropy, and a fictitious dinner with Aristotle to juxtapose past research studies with much-needed future scientific inquiries. Wasps are chemists, mathematicians, and, Sumner points out, less understood and studied than bees, who are really just wasps that have forgotten how to hunt.”