Endless Forms

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Endless Forms

The Secret World of Wasps

Seirian Sumner


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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:

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.