Insectpedia by Eric R. Eaton: Review

I was very pleased to be invited by Princeton University Press to review this new book on insects by Eric Eaton for you through the Beelistener. I really started to understand the important roles of insects when I first read Edward O. Wilson’s The Diversity of Life in 2006 while studying for an HNC ( Higher National Certificate) in Countryside Management at the then Scottish Agricultural College (now SRUC). Since then I’ve read many interesting new books on the subject and Insectpedia is the latest. It is a delight and my new bed time reading. It is the sort of book that I will read over again and dip into when I need information.


Title: – Insectpedia-A Brief Compendium of Insect Lore

Author: – Eric R. Eaton

Published: – 2022

Publisher: – Princeton University Press

ISBN: – 978-0-691-21034-6

Cover: – Hardback/ cloth

Pages: – 199 plus preface, acknowledgements and references

Cost: – £9.99

Available from bookstores including Northern Bee Books.

Insectpedia-A Brief Compendium of Insect Lore by naturalist and writer Eric Eaton is a collection of condensed but detailed vignettes describing many different insects from all over the world. Eaton includes history, folklore, new discoveries, and future research subjects. He profiles influential figures in entomology including Anna Botsford Comstock, the first female professor at Cornell University, and Jean-Henri Fabre. Fabre promoted science for young women and lectured on entomology to French school girls in 1870.

Eaton also positively promotes insects in his delightful small portable encyclopaedia at a time when raising public awareness about the importance of insects is crucial. Not only are insects needed for the services of soil conditioning and pollination; they will become an important source of protein for the human diet in the future.

This colourful, cloth-bound book with an elaborately embossed insect on the front cover is good value at the price. It feels pleasant to handle and is printed on fine-quality paper. The drawings by artist and illustrator Amy Jean Porter are delicate, detailed, and beautifully executed. They reflect her own knowledge and affection as a naturalist who is fond of insects.

The reader is transported vicariously through time and space to cricket fighting in Tang dynasty China, where the sport continued till banned by the Communist Government in 1976 (it was regarded as an elitist leisure activity). The journey leads us on to the Kalahari Desert where the San people collect leaf beetle toxins to rub on spears. We learn that the toxins damage oxygen carrying red blood cells so that the animals die from a fatal reduction in oxygen.

The author has an engaging way of drawing the reader into the stories using humour. “Some insects are to dye for” is an example, and we “discover” scale insects producing cochineal for food colouring and dyeing cloth. Cochineal was once Mexico’s second largest export commodity during colonial times up to the revolution in 1821. And who would not be fascinated to read about Signor Berlottos’ flea circus of 1830 and enjoy the drawing of a harnessed flea pulling a carriage?

Insectpedia will appeal to all ages and is written for everyone interested in learning new things about our environment. Find out about brochosomes and their importance. Discover which three particular insects are used as indicators in determining water quality. Learn why the Aussies had to stop chucking their empty “stubbies” (beer bottles) on the ground in order to save the western Australian jewel beetle from dying out.

Many young people are growing up today with a positive fascination for insects, and this book is perfect for piquing interest and encouraging further studies. It will be a valuable addition to school libraries.

My only disappointment is not finding the late Edward O. Wilson listed as one of our great and influential contributors to entomology, but perhaps this will be amended in a future edition.

Wild Colony Rescue Update.

On closer inspection, the cavity is lined with propolis.

Andrew (Mac) Card of the Lochness Honey Company has taken the colony to one of his quarantine apiaries and will monitor varroa levels. Mac dropped in here on his way home from collecting them the other evening with this piece of Scots pine. It is really quite a beautiful thing and I plan to keep it indoors to admire (if I get away with it!!)

Mac tells me that the nest measures 135 cm and that there is a propolis lining after all. I gave him the chunks of honey I found in my bucket of empty comb and he will feed this back to the colony.

Beekeeping Again.

After enduring a persistant cold east wind with disappointingly low temperatures and a good measure of rain for 2 weeks, the days are sunny, warm, and right for checking the bees. Most of the colonies are growing slowly and not ready for swarm control yet. I suspect the mild winter didn’t allow for much of a brood break and 2 colonies have high varroa levels and DWV which is not good. Mac supplies Formic Pro, now available for use here in the UK, so I’ve treated 2 colonies before the honey supers go on. The advantage of Formic Pro is that we can use one strip only for 7 days and repeat if necessary which is better for smaller colonies than previously when we were legally obliged to use 2 Mite Away Quick Strips (formic acid). Sometimes the queens were superseded after application at the end of summer when they didn’t always get well mated. The shelf life of Formic Pro is longer than Mite Away Quick Strips which was the only brand of formic acid available in UK till recently.

I’ve made a note to self to requeen 3 colonies that currently have light yellowish queens because they have built up too quickly for our weather conditions. At the time when there is more brood than workers in April, we get a cold snap and chalkbrood appears because there are too many larvae and not enough bees to keep the large nest warm enough. Despite feeding with sugar syrup chalkbrood persists, and will probably not clear up till the weather improves. I really need to keep darker, smaller, less prolific,and thriftier colonies.

Beelistener Facebook Group.

I’ve started a Facebook group linked to this blog for dynamic information sharing and so far it is proving interesting. Ray Baxter from Kelso, who is one of the pioneers of beekeeping in Scottish Schools, has designed and made his own hive monitoring system. This creative and innovative work really brings science and technology alive for schools and I’m proud of what is going on in this country.

Foundation Maker.

For years I’ve been wanting to make my own foundation so I know that the wax will have no lingering varroacides that might affect drone sperm quality and queen fertility. This has had to sit on the back burner due to cost. However, honey sales from the bumper crop last year make it possible now, and I took Fred Mollison’s advice and ordered up from a supplier in Latvia who makes them for £318 plus £71.29 VAT.

The box arrived a few days ago and I puzzled about how I would open it as it was constructed of plywood reinforced with strips of wood nailed together, probably with a nail gun; so many nails! At last it dawned on me… hive tool. I wrenched it open like a pro.

There is a cooling fan which connects to a car battery charger but I haven’t tested it yet.
Silicone mould with drip tray and tools.

More on that when I find time to try it out. The foundation will need to be cut to size for Nationals as the press is designed for Langstroth frames.


Welcome to all new readers who subscribed recently, and thank you to everyone who made comments and offered information and advice as this really makes the site more interesting.

4 thoughts on “Insectpedia by Eric R. Eaton: Review”

  1. I enjoyed reading todays articles, Ann. You should have lots of interesting results from producing your own foundation.. I will be interesting to read about what your bees do with their clean wax. Mike Waite and Tim Rowe have made some You Tube videos of their foundation making. Tim’s way of alternating four sorts of frames of wax produces fascinating results. The four variations are a strip from a sheet of factory foundation; a sheet of factory foundation; a strip from a sheet of his homemade rolled wax; and a full sheet of home made rolled wax. The full sheets act as guides. The ways the bees draw the comb to suit their needs is interesting.

    Tim demonstrates the difference between pressed sheets and rolled sheets; He twists strips to show that the latter are not brittle. You can watch this 5:20 minutes into the other video he mentions at the beginning

  2. Thanks for sharing..
    Tried making foundation 50 years ago. It came out like bricks and the bees did not know what to do with it! Been using none for the last few years now to good effect…
    Nice to see the propolis lining Ann

    1. I’m feeling positive about this foundation maker, Frazer, having tried out foundation made by a friend. I like the idea of using starter strips. It would be good to get an account of how you set up and manage your foundation-less system though. Perhaps tell us on the Beelistener Facebook page?

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