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  • Published: 18 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781524733216
  • Imprint: Knopf US
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $50.00

The Butterfly Effect

Insects and the Making of the Modern World



An insightful, entertaining dive into the fruitful, centuries-long relationship between humans and insects, revealing the fascinating and surprising array of ways humans depend on these minute, six-legged pests.

Insects might make us recoil in repugnance, but they also manufacture--or make possible in other ways--many of the things we take for granted in our daily lives. When we bite into a shiny apple, listen to the resonant notes of a violin, try on the latest fashions, receive a dental implant, or get a manicure, we are mingling with the by-products of their everyday lives. Try as we might to replicate their raw material (silk, shellac, and cochineal, for instance), our artificial substitutes have proven subpar at best, and at worst toxic, ensuring our interdependence with the insect world for the foreseeable future. With illuminating demonstrations and thoughtful histories, and drawing on research in laboratory science, agriculture practices, fashion, and international cuisine, Melillo weaves a colorful world history that shows humans and insects as inextricably intertwined. He makes clear that, across time, humans have not only coexisted with these creatures, but have relied on them for, among other things, the key discoveries of modern medical science and the future of the world's food supply. Here is a fascinating appreciation of the ways in which these creatures have altered--and continue to shape--the very frameworks of our existence.

  • Published: 18 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781524733216
  • Imprint: Knopf US
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $50.00

Praise for The Butterfly Effect

“All of us, all the time, are surrounded by the inconceivable multitudes of the insect world. Yet somehow I was surprised to learn from The Butterfly Effect how deeply these tiny creatures are embedded in human history--and not just because some insects spread disease. In case after enthralling case, Ted Melillo shows how insects have made fortunes, fueled empires, and helped with the creation of great art, all the while making agriculture possible through pollination. Come for the weird orchid bugs that inspired Darwin, stay for the fascinating people who have unraveled the secrets of insect societies!” —Charles C. Mann, author of 1491

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