Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps (Hardcover)

Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps By Seirian Sumner Cover Image

Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps (Hardcover)


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“A book that draws us in to the strange beauty of what we so often run away from.” Robin Ince, author of The Importance of Being Interested

In this eye-opening and entertaining work of popular science in the spirit of The Mosquito, Entangled Life, and The Book of Eels, a leading behavioural ecologist transforms our understanding of wasps, exploring these much-maligned insects’ secret world, their incredible diversity and complex social lives, and revealing how they hold our fragile ecosystem in balance.

Everyone worries about the collapse of bee populations. But what about wasps? Deemed the gangsters of the insect world, wasps are winged assassins with formidable stings. Conduits of Biblical punishment, provokers of fear and loathing, inspiration for horror movies: wasps are perhaps the most maligned insect on our planet. 

But do wasps deserve this reputation?

Endless Forms opens our eyes to the highly complex and diverse world of  wasps. Wasps are 100 million years older than bees; there are ten times more wasp species than there are bees. There are wasps that spend their entire lives sealed inside a fig; wasps that turn cockroaches into living zombies; wasps that live inside other wasps. There are wasps that build citadels that put our own societies to shame, marked by division of labor, rebellions and policing, monarchies, leadership contests, undertakers, police, negotiators, and social parasites.  Wasps are nature’s most misunderstood insect: as predators and pollinators, they keep the planet’s ecological balance in check. Wasps are nature’s pest controllers; a world without wasps would be just as ecologically devastating as losing the bees, or beetles, or butterflies.

Wasps are diverse and beautiful by every measure, and they are invaluable to planetary health, Professor Sumner reminds us; we’d do well to appreciate them as much as their cuter cousins, the bees. 

SEIRIAN SUMNER is a professor of behavioral ecology at University College London, where she studies the ecology and evolution of social insects. She has published over seventy papers in scientific journals and has received numerous awards for her work, including a L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award, a Points of Light Award from the UK prime minister, and a Silver Medal from the Zoological Society of London. She is a fellow and trustee of the Royal Entomological Society and cofounder of the citizen science initiative Big Wasp Survey. Sumner lives in Oxfordshire, England, with her husband and three children.

Product Details ISBN: 9780063029927
ISBN-10: 0063029928
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: July 12th, 2022
Pages: 400
Language: English

“Presenting her work as a counterweight to the “bee-bias” of much scientific literature, [Sumner] expounds on wasps’ social organization and reproductive habits, and lays out a case for further research into this ‘challenging child of the insect world.’” — The New Yorker

“Sumner’s compelling account of nature’s coherent beauty teaches that it is time for the utilitarian attitude toward nature to be replaced with appreciation and conservation, something long overdue.”  — Wall Street Journal

“A witty, readable and unusual account of the world’s most maligned and misunderstood insect: the wasp.”  — Forbes

"A wasp admirer makes a delightful case for their importance.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Sumner successfully makes the case for wasps in this engaging read with her deft humor, thorough research, and astute analogies." — Library Journal (starred review)

“Endless Forms is a labor of love, designed to alter fundamentally the narrative surrounding wasps, presenting budding naturalists and amateur entomologists with a transformative lens through which to appreciate the "gangsters of the insect world.”  — Shelf Awareness

“Entomologist Sumner debuts with a tour de force on the world of wasps, delving into their daily lives, economic value to society, and the important ecological niches they fill.”  — Publishers Weekly

“Wasps, in all their endless forms, are not the annoying monsters we often believe them to be. Instead they are fascinating foundations of entire ecosystems, and essential to our lives. Sumner’s tale is thrilling, warm, and scholarly in equal measure, and brilliantly repairs the reputation of wasps—most beautiful and wonderful as they truly are.” — Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

“A book that draws us in to the strange beauty of what we so often run away from.” — Robin Ince, author of The Importance of Being Interested

“If you’ve ever wondered, ‘Why do wasps exist?’ you must read this book. There is so much more to them than you ever imagined. A funny and beautifully written welcome to the enigmatic, weird, and wonderful world of wasps. Wasps are seriously cool.” — Dave Goulson, author of Silent Earth

“I thought I knew about wasps—I was wrong. Wasps are perfectly adapted to life on earth—I want to come back as one. A cracking good read that left me buzzing with excitement.” — Dr. George McGavin, zoologist, broadcaster, and author of All Creatures Small and Great: How Insects Make the World

“[Sumner’s] passion for wasps and their global importance as both predators and pollinators is compelling…This interesting and entertaining work is sure to leave readers buzzing.” — Booklist

“Sometimes the most perfect books are those that shine a light on surprising, neglected subjects. Endless Forms is just such a book. Seirian Sumner writes lucidly and entertainingly about this most fascinating of creatures. You’ll never ask ‘What’s the point of wasps?’ again.” — Will Storr, author of The Status Game