From sea squirts to slugs to Swallowtails, Bugs Britannica is the third beautifully illustrated book in Richard Mabey's landmark series, a companion volume to the bestselling classics Flora Britannica and Birds Britannica.
Like those much-loved books, Bugs Britannica is not a biological guide but a richly illustrated cultural one, where British bugs are seen through the eyes of writers, musicians, artists, photographers and naturalists - from the great Tudor naturalist, Thomas Muffet (father of Little Miss Muffet) to Irvine Welsh's talking tapeworm in Filth - with vivid contributions and observations by members of the public, fascinated by creepy-crawlies of all kinds.
Taking British invertebrates as its subject, the book is structured along a roughly evolving path, from simple cell life-forms - amoeba, worms, crustaceans (proof, say the authors, of `just how far you can go on very little') - to bugs we all might recognise - spiders, butterflies, bees - and back into the water to meet the molluscs and `almost-fish'... It works so triumphantly because author Peter Marren has examined bugs in the dusty corners of our houses and gardens as well as traversing mountains, lakes, fields and the seashore. He observes not only the fascinating habits of the bug world, but also the eccentric behaviour of the human bug obsessives.
But, of course, the true heroes of the book are the bugs themselves: the nimble dicks, lady clocks, coffin-cutters and multitudes of others. From the Boring Sponge (its official name) to the Mermaid's Glove and Penis worm, via the Dark Crimson Underwing and Ruby-tailed wasp - this rich compendium of bugs is a must, not only for naturalists but for anyone who cares about the crawling, buzzing swarms which make up the estimated 40,000 species of bugs that live on or around Britain.
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