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4.6 out of 5 stars23
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 December 2005
The book to accompany Attenborough's exploration of the tiny world of the insects. An excellent, well packaged, highly informative and profusely illustrated little tome, this is great value and an exciting and stimulating introduction to the subject. The material presented is accessible - you will not be baffled by academic or scientific jargon - and, far from being simply a reference book, this is a very readable volume. It will stimulate your interest in the subject.
However, this is not the television series - the photographs are excellent, the writing clear, but the book cannot capture the excitement and wonder which the moving image achieves. BBC television has an extraordinary record in presenting wildlife programmes, and the filming of this series is of the highest quality. The book, therefore, is a little disappointing purely and simply because it cannot offer the momentum and dynamic of the moving image and 'live' sound.
I comment on the difference between book and programme not as a criticism, but as a warning - I have often heard people complain that a book didn't live up to the series. They're different animals. If you don't get the same sense of immediacy and presence from the book, what you do get is a lasting sense of wonder. Books like this inspire people to look further into the subject. You will find yourself reading this and stopping to watch insects differently. Beware - there are pictures of spiders; while these are misunderstood little creatures, they do scare the …. out of many people, so be wary who you sit next to when reading it. Of course, if you have a malicious sense of humour, I recommend leaving the book open at page … .
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on 16 October 2006
I thought this book was very good, since it gave a very general aspect of many insects, in their own habitat. The pictures are of very high quality and there is some material in the book which is not available in the DVD. Of course there are some things which are only shown in the DVD, such as the area where it shows the development of a bumblebee nest.

I do think that it is probably his best book so far out of all his nature books. I would recommend this book to everyone who is starting to study nature.
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on 6 June 2012
The remit of this cogently written and photographically pleasing book is to provide the reader with an overview of how invertebrate life forms left the sea, initially invading the land and subsequently taking to the air. In this respect Attenborough's narrative is a triumph, logical, well paced and peppered with expertly chosen, often amazing examples of life from the world of insects, bugs, arachnids, beetles and crustaceans.

What Attenborough excels at, is taking dry biological concepts such as evolution, symbiosis and parasitism and embellishing them with real world examples which always serve to reinforce in the reader a sense of awe and wonder in the sheer diversity of life on our planet. Here the concept of symbiosis is brilliantly portrayed in the mutually beneficial relationship between Azteca ants and Cordia trees and Acacia ants and Acacia trees. The process of evolution is tellingly brought to life in the description of Liphistius, a primitive spider and the possible origins of sociability in wasps.

There is much here to inform and delight readers of all experiences. I was instructed of the difference between a centipede and a millipede and a honey bee and a bumble bee for instance. It's hard not to be reminded of ourselves when reading of the 'super societies' of magnetic termites and ants, with their populations of millions, castes, divisions of labour and functional architecture and horticulture. The self sufficiency and invulnerability of such ant populations provide us with a chilling reminder that although we depend on insects to pollinate our crops and biodegrade our waste - they do not need and could easily supersede us.

Particularly astonishing is the capability of wasps through the creation of galls to genetically modify oak trees to serve the needs of their larvae. Our forays into GM crops seem primitive indeed by comparison. Attenborough also repulses the reader in descriptions of wasp larvae parasitizing spiders and butterflies and outrages them in reference to the enslavement of brown wood ants by red ants. Likewise the audacious bee fly is brilliantly portrayed as the insect equivalent to the cuckoo, its larvae squatting in bees' nests.
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on 12 March 2009
This is one of the authors better books mainly due to the improved photography which is quite outstanding in some areas. It is not fair to compare it to the TV series as the book serves a completely different audience.
This is a book of creepy-crawlies-water,land and air based. The sections deal with a)the invasion of the land by insects,b)the first insects to fly, c)the silk spinners d)the relationship between insects,plants and animals and e)supersocities eg. ants and bees.All sections are well written and there is an excellent diagram on pages 277-8 that explains the relationships of invertebrates.
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on 8 December 2005
I cant help thinking cynically after reading the book that its a bit of a con, making you buy the book as the series is so good but the book is not closely related enough to the series, the chapters are the same and it features many of the same anecdotes of invertebrate behaviour but the pictures were not taken as part of the filming of the show, if only they were! They are stock photos and while some are of a very high standard (one page showing 4 photos of a dragonfly emerging from his chrysalis) some are not so impressive which is not something you really expect from a book accompanying a david attenborough series.
The dvd is worth owning but the book is not.
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on 8 January 2013
And perfect coffee table book which, can be enjoyed on a visual level alone. Adding an expert commentary informs and reminds us of the diversity existing in Africa. Wonderful gift to a friend or to oneself.
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on 30 May 2012
As a collector of David Attenborough books I have found this a great addition to my book shelf. It completes my 'life in' selection, and deserves its pride of place. The DVD is also excellent....
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on 25 December 2015
This book reached me in very good condition. I have watched most of the associated programmes on TV, and shall write short reviews after I have read all of them.
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They're there in their swarming multitudes. Millions upon millions of tiny creatures which we rarely observe and even more rarely consider. In large part we ignore them. Most are too small to be seen unaided and those large enough to be visible usually find ways to hide or deceive us. When we visibly encounter them, out come the folded newspapers or spray cans of insecticide. Such hasty judgements may be reconsidered when you've finished this glorious portrayal of insect life.

A TV documentary made into a book may seem "unscientific" to some. However, Attenborough's attention to detail and his prose skills give this volume real value. Lavishly illustrated, with many full-page photographs, the insect world is presented in grand scale. The subjects are presented in intimate detail, and range from miniscule to giant. Although a powerful leaper, the springtail is a minute insect. Photographed beside the head of a pin, it's easy to see why we fail to observe them readily. Yet, only a few pages away, an African snail covers the hand of the man holding it. A hoverfly, one of Nature's bizarre products, is caught frozen in flight. Its ability to hover and dart away is vividly described in Attenborough's text. Another photo portrays another master of aerodynamics, the dragonfly, which can use its wings independently. The image shows all four wings in a different position. It's the dragonfly's ancient ancestor that captures your attention. In his chapter on flying insects, the author displays an ancient fossil dragonfly wing. This ancient progenitor would have had a wingspan of 20 centimetres. Yet, it would been have been diminished by others of its kind reaching 73 centimetres on a body similar to one of today's seagulls in size.

Attenborough's skills as a communicator are well exhibited in this book. Drawing on a wealth of research, he's able to describe insect elements from structure to mating habits. Insects have highly complex body formations and internal organs that vary hugely from the rather consistent pattern of mammals like us. Lungs are uncommon, for example, and air is taken in to the body in a variety of ways. Passages in the legs or along the body may allow air to enter, but some insects "breathe" through the skin itself. Also unlike mammals, breeding may entail extended periods depending on both "social" and environmental conditions. Some spiders, when mating, take but minutes, particularly if the female is hungry. Others, where the male fears competition may last far longer as he remains in place to ensure it's his genes that are carried to the next generation.

Part of Attenborough's theme is the importance this panoply of life, from great to tiny, plays in our lives. With the immense amount of time and effort put in to make the photographs and observe these creatures in their native habitats, he and his teams have provided much new information about them. He delves into the rich evolutionary history of insects, reminding us that their heritage dates back to the beginning of life on land - nearly 400 million years ago. His work demonstrates that these animals, which we often consider "mindless", do possess an unexpected individuality. He's also candid about what remains to be learned. Some of the research called for may have serious implications for humanity. We thoughtlessly exterminate insects at our peril. With so much valuable information and a treasure of detailed images, this book is a worthwhile purchase for anybody, young or old. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 21 February 2013
Brought for my daughter at christmas, she absolutely loves it! Bright colours, beautifull photography, an absolute treasure of a book.
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