Friday, April 8, 2011

Wasp Farm by Howard Ensign Evans: A book review

And a very belated book review this is, too. I read Wasp Farm by Howard Ensign Evans a while ago and enjoyed it. It's not quite as charming as John Crompton's The Spider, but very nearly. How could I not like a book that seriously gives advice on how best to attract wasps:
Attracting wasps is not difficult; in fact, it is easier than not attracting them. One merely needs to be lazy. Let the weeds and brambles row up, and don't prune the roses and fruit trees or cut out dead sumacs and elderberries: the more unkempt vegetation the more insects for wasps to prey upon and the more hollow or pithy twigs the more cavities for them to nest in. Plow a garden and plant it to interesting things, but don't cultivate too conscientiously and by all means don't go overboard on insecticides: share the wealth with the insects which, after all are mostly attractive and rather amusing (even a worm in the salad provides interesting dinner conversation)

Essentially, Wasp Farm is the tale of time spent in a house chosen specifically because it had a wasp-friendly sort of yard. Evans and his family cultivate, admire, and describe wasps in a friendly approachable way. He likes insects, and he wants everyone else to like them, too.  Seldom have I so wanted to invite an author over for dinner--though possibly without the worms in the salad.

 Oh, and I love his philosophy of learning:
For every man owes it to himself to be reasonably well informed on the subjects that interests him. We should read the great naturalists and try to grasp their sense of wonderment, their mode of marshaling facts to support new concepts. The modern naturalist is better informed, for he stands on the shoulders of giants; he also has the help of technological advances such as the camera and the computer. Perhaps he will never propose a great theory or found a new field of investigation. But to gather well-documented facts which add to the sum total of human knowledge is in itself a noble thing. It need not be might equally well be fungi, filed mice, or tardigrades. There are enough unsolved problems in an average back yard to keep a battalion of naturalists occupied for their lives.

Drawback? It is older (originally published in 1963), and the pictures are, therefore, black and white. This should not keep anyone from reading the book. It just means that instant recognition of real, live wasps is unlikely, if Wasp Farm is the only source of information available.

Now that I think of it, it's time I went and saw what else by Howard Ensign Evans is available out there.

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