Endless Forms: The Secret World of Wasps

By Seirian Sumner

‘A funny and beautifully written welcome to the enigmatic, weird and wonderful world of wasps’ DAVE GOULSON, author of SILENT EARTH

There may be no insect with a worse reputation than the wasp, and none guarding so many undiscovered wonders.

Where bees and ants have long been the darlings of the insect world, wasps are much older, cleverer and more diverse. They are the bee’s evolutionary ancestors – flying 100 million years earlier – and today they are just as essential for the survival of our environment. A bee, ecologist Professor Seirian Sumner argues, is just a wasp that has forgotten how to hunt.

For readers of Entangled Life, Other Minds and The Gospel of Eels, this is a book to upturn your expectations about one overlooked animal and the wider architecture of our natural world.

With endless surprises, this book might teach you about the wasps that spend their entire lives sealed inside a fig, about stinging wasps, about parasitic wasps, about wasps that turn cockroaches into living zombies, about how wasps taught us to make paper.

It offers up a maligned insect in all its diverse, unexpected splendour; as both predator and pollinator, the wasp is an essential pest controller worldwide. Inside their sophisticated social worlds is the best model we have for the earth’s major evolutionary transitions. In their understudied biology are clues to progressing medicine, including a possible cure for cancer.

The closer you look at these spurned, winged insects – both custodians and bouncers of our planet – the more you see. Their secrets have so far gone mostly untapped, but the potential of the wasp is endless.

Format: Hardback
Release Date: 26 May 2022
Pages: 400
ISBN: 978-0-00-839447-9
Professor Seirian Sumner is a Professor of Behavioural Ecology at University College London, where she studies the ecology and evolution of social insects. She has published over 70 papers in scientific journals, and has received numerous awards for her work, including a L’Oréal 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 co-founder of the citizen science initiative Big Wasp Survey. Endless Forms is her debut work of non-fiction for a general audience. She lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and three children.

‘Sumner's tale is thrilling, warm and scholarly in equal measure, and brilliantly repairs the reputation of wasps - most beautiful and wonderful as they truly are’Adam Rutherford, author of How to Argue with a Racist -

‘A book I never knew I needed that is an absolute delight to read … Finally, a cure for our irrational fear of this unfairly demonised insect … A book that draws us in to the strange beauty of what we so often run away from’Robin Ince -

”'If you’ve ever wondered 'why do wasps exist?” - you must read this book. There is so much more to them than you ever imagined. A funny and beautifully written welcome to the enigmatic, weird and wonderful world of wasps’Dave Goulson, author of Silent Earth

‘I thought I knew about wasps - I was wrong … A tremendously good read that left me buzzing with excitement and reminded me why I became an entomologist’George McGavin -

‘Sometimes the most perfect books are those that shine a light on surprising, neglected subjects. Endless Forms is just such a book. Summer writes lucidly and entertainingly about this most fascinating of creatures’Will Storr -

‘You also shouldn’t miss Endless Forms … which explains why you shouldn’t, on any account, go squashing these remarkable creatures to a pulp … [A] marvellous, revelatory natural history’Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller, Editor’s Choice -

‘Contains splendidly vivid descriptions of modern techniques of entomological heredity and genomics, as well as insect-scale neuroscience … it would be a tetchy soul who did not begrudgingly admire them a bit more’Telegraph -

‘Sumner’s vivid enthusiasm for wasps is contagious … with every animated description of the daily lives of a wasp family, my prejudices melt away’Guardian -

‘Sumner is an exuberant guide to the world of wasps and may even persuade you not to whack the next one you find in your kitchen’Daily Mail -