thumbnail of book

For Love of Insects
by Thomas Eisner
Harvard University Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-0-674-01181-6 | Paper: 978-0-674-01827-3
Library of Congress Classification QL463.E38 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 595.7


Imagine beetles ejecting defensive sprays as hot as boiling water; female moths holding their mates for ransom; caterpillars disguising themselves as flowers by fastening petals to their bodies; termites emitting a viscous glue to rally fellow soldiers--and you will have entered an insect world once beyond imagining, a world observed and described down to its tiniest astonishing detail by Thomas Eisner. The story of a lifetime of such minute explorations, For Love of Insects celebrates the small creatures that have emerged triumphant on the planet, the beneficiaries of extraordinary evolutionary inventiveness and unparalleled reproductive capacity.

To understand the success of insects is to appreciate our own shortcomings, Eisner tells us, but never has a reckoning been such a pleasure. Recounting exploits and discoveries in his lab at Cornell and in the field in Uruguay, Australia, Panama, Europe, and North America, Eisner time and again demonstrates how inquiry into the survival strategies of an insect leads to clarifications beyond the expected; insects are revealed as masters of achievement, forms of life worthy of study and respect from even the most recalcitrant entomophobe. Filled with descriptions of his ingenious experiments and illustrated with photographs unmatched for their combination of scientific content and delicate beauty, Eisner's book makes readers participants in the grand adventure of discovery on a scale infinitesimally small, and infinitely surprising.

Table of Contents:

Foreword by Edward O. Wilson

1. Bombardier
2. Vinegaroons and Other Wizards
3. Wonders from Wonderland
4. Masters of Deception
5. Ambulatory Spray Guns
6. Tales from the Website
7. The Circumventers
8. The Opportunists
9. The Love Potion
10. The Sweet Smell of Success

Illustration Credits

Reviews of this book:
Although insects are not usually the stars of popular-science writing, this engaging look at how one scientist studies their lives may add them to the most-requested lists of science- and animal-loving readers.
--Nancy Bent, Booklist

Reviews of this book:
For Love of Insects is especially valuable because it explains the steps missing from the research reports in Nature and Science: [Eisner] tells the story from first noticing a bug on a walk in the woods, through experiments and analytical chemistry, to a final understanding of each phenomenon...For Love of Insects is a fascinating introduction to a world we poor humans--barely able to detect most chemicals--seldom notice.
--Jonathan Beard, New Scientist

Reviews of this book:
[Eisner's] new book is a personal memoir of a lifetime in science, engagingly written and stunningly illustrated with photographs of insects doing astonishing things...What makes Eisner a world-class entomologist is not access to million-dollar scientific instruments, but a mind that never stops asking 'Why?'
--Chet Raymo, Boston Globe

Reviews of this book:
This is one of the best nature titles in the last several years.
--Kim Long, Bloomsbury Review

Reviews of this book:
[P]repare to be amazed. Brimming with enthusiasm, Eisner reveals a world of unbelievable majesty and complexity in the simplest of insects. The photographs alone are worth the price of the book, but the text crackles with the electricity of a brilliant genius at work, as Eisner leads the reader from simple observation to major scientific breakthrough. In fact this book should be required reading for every biology student because it illuminates the basic principle that passion and curiosity are the twin pillars of all great science.
--David Lukas, Los Angeles Times

Reviews of this book:
Have you ever been squirted by a vinegaroon? Spent a night alone outdoors in the Arizona desert? Staged a pitched battle between ants and termites? (The termites took heavy losses, but the ants retreated under fire from their biological weapon, a chemical spray containing complex diterpenes.) If the answer's no, enlarge your horizon's by reading Thomas Eisner's For Love of Insects...A fascinating and highly unusual book...These and many more of nature's mysteries are unraveled in Eisner's inimitable style--charmingly modest, brimming with enthusiasm and shot with flashes of endearing naïveté...Anyone fascinated by the endless diversity of nature, who prefers quirky fact to highfalutin theory or who simply likes to share someone else's passion, will find this book a delight.
--Derek Bickerton, New York Times Book Review

Reviews of this book:
In his new book, For Love of Insects, Eisner describes a lifetime of field observations and laboratory experiments on an amazingly broad sampling of the class Insecta, together with the rest of the terrestrial arthropods. Along the way, he is a font of information about the workings of myriad biological adaptations. Together with the book's exquisite and detailed photographs...Eisner's text is the research retrospective of a self-described 'incorrigible entomophile'--one of the world's most visible and admired entomologists.
--Robert L. Smith, Natural History

Reviews of this book:
Not only does [Eisner] describe discoveries with a richness and enthusiasm long absent from contemporary literature (where every word counts and is counted), but he interlaces the chronology of his exploration with relevant personal reflections. The resulting bildungsroman portrays the scientist as hunter in hot pursuit of new findings...With its vivid descriptions and beautiful images of insect life, this book should entice the interest and support of readers from all backgrounds.
--Ian T. Baldwin, Science

Reviews of this book:
The book is well written and beautifully illustrated with colour photographs, the majority taken by the author...Throughout the text one is reminded of the pleasure that the author derives from discovery. Anyone reading this book will themselves embark upon a journey of discovery and come to share, if only at arm's length, Tom's love of insect's and the wonders of nature.
--Jeremy N. McNeil, Nature

Reviews of this book:
The findings [Eisner] describes are intriguing--all the more so in that they provide the scaffolding on which we see at work the mind of one of our most distinguished scientists and naturalists. Exquisitely illustrated with photographs, most taken by Eisner, who is widely admired for his photography, the book is written in a style that is conversational, witty and graphic. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to read.
--Scientific American

Reviews of this book:
An absorbing story of Eisner's career as a professor of chemical ecology (a discipline he helped found), interwoven with a passionate celebration of his subject--the lowly insect--and countless did-you-know's from the world of entomology.
--New York Times Book Review

Reviews of this book:
This is the sort of book that you want to read out loud to complete strangers. Rarely has the manic curiosity of a naturalist's scientific mind been so clearly revealed as in this journey with Thomas Eisner...As the title suggests, this book reflects sheer enthusiasm and passion for bugs, and the reading of it is like a wild ride with a brilliant researcher...For Love of Insects marvelously captures the spirit of the naturalist mind and suggests how we might view the natural world with renewed curiosity and excitement. If this book could be required reading for biology students, the result would be a new generation of eager, brilliant naturalists.
--David Lukas, Orion

Reviews of this book:
Eisner's work, summarized for the first time in this elegantly written and beautifully illustrated book, presents a coherent picture of a world little known even to many biologists.
--William A. Shear, American Scientist

Reviews of this book:
After 45 years at Cornell [Eisner] has written a fascinating book of stories about some of his most interesting discoveries and how they came about. One can read about bombardier beetles that blast their attackers with hot benzoquinones, millipedes that tie up marauding ants with minute grappling hooks, and sundew plants that capture their insect prey with sticky secretions...This very readable book has a great number of outstanding color and black-and-white photographs that are themselves remarkably interesting.
--R. C. Graves, Choice

Reviews of this book:
Eisner's book compels and fascinates at a variety of levels. It probes the ways in which insects use chemicals, and documents the ways in which an investigator poses the questions and teases out the answers...He tells his stories in the most accessible way...The sheer elegance of his approach is spellbinding. And the photographs that document his explorations are remarkable--every experimental tale here is beautifully illustrated.
--Gaden S. Robinson, Times Literary Supplement

The world has eagerly awaited these enchanting tales of insect life, brimming with discovery, insight, and wry humor. They're a master entomologist's masterwork. The photographs are also extraordinary, both illuminating and exquisitely beautiful.
--Diane Ackerman, Cornell University

I don't know whether I like the text or the photographs of For Love of Insects better. The former is brilliant, the product of the dean of chemical ecology and a world-renowned expert on insects. The latter are spectacular, the work of an outstanding photographer--once again Tom Eisner. No naturalist or natural scientist will want to be without this book. Indeed, if everyone would take the time to read it and look at the amazing pictures our society would benefit greatly from an enhanced appreciation of the insect world.
--Paul Ehrlich, President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University

Love of insects? Hell, that's barely the half of it! Better Tom Eisner had called this book Love of Life and the Lively of progeny and all provenance! With boundless verve and grace and marvel and delight, Tom Eisner proves himself, across these dazzling pages, to be one of the all-time great biophiliacs. Ah, the blessing, for the rest of us, to be alive alongside him!
--Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities and author of Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

There are few books which present the fullness of a life in science as powerfully, as modestly, and as enchantingly as this one. The excitement of Tom Eisner's fundamental investigations are mingled with vivid descriptions of his many other loves and enthusiasms--for music and literature no less than for the natural world--in seamless and beautiful prose. For Love of Insects is not only a delight to read, but, with its amazing photographs, a visual feast, too.
--Oliver Sachs, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

See other books on: Eisner, Thomas | Entomology | For Love | Insects | Insects & Spiders
See other titles from Harvard University Press

Reference metadata exposed for Zotero via unAPI.