Sex on Six Legs --
Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World
by Marlene Zuk
published by Houghton Mifflin
© 2011 by Marlene Zuk
Times Book Review
But first, for those tempted to scuttle away in fear, a vigorous defense
of insects qua insects. The antithesis of the dispassionate scientist,
Zuk, who teaches at the University of California, Riverside, waxes exuberant
over insects not for their extraordinary looks or the billion-dollar
ecosystem “services” they provide, like pollination and
nutrient recycling, but for the often bizarre things they do to get
ahead, “things that would put the most gruesome horror film to
shame.” Male honeybee genitals explode after sex; wasps turn cockroaches
into zombie incubators; male scorpionflies produce wads of saliva to
feed their mates — a nuptial gift that distracts her front end
while her hind end mates (the larger the gift, the longer the pairing).
On vacation in Hawaii, Zuk prowls not the beaches or rain forests but
a lawn visited by crickets parasitized by flies that deposit burrowing
larvae on their bodies. After hatching, the fly larvae begin to eat
the cricket’s fat. As the maggots grow, they colonize the entire
body cavity and consume all its organs until the creature “is
a shell that looks like a cricket but is pulsing inside with fly.”
--- Elizabeth Royte
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