Throughout the Middle Ages, enormously popular bestiaries
presented people with descriptions of rare and unusual animals,
typically paired with a moral or religious lesson. The real and the
imaginary blended seamlessly in these books at the time, the
existence of a rhinoceros was as credible as a unicorn or dragon.
Although audiences now scoff at the impossibility of mythological
beasts, there remains an extraordinary willingness to suspend
skepticism and believe wild stories about nature, particularly
about insects and their relatives in the "Phylum Arthropoda."
In "The Earwig s Tail," entomologist May Berenbaum and
illustrator Jay Hosler draw on the powerful cultural symbols of
these antiquated books to create a beautiful and witty bestiary of
the insect world. Berenbaum s compendium of tales is an
alphabetical tour of modern myths that humorously illuminates
aerodynamically unsound bees, ear-boring earwigs, and
libido-enhancing Spanish flies. She tracks down the germ of
scientific truth that inspires each insect urban legend and shares
some wild biological lessons, which, because of the amazing nature
of the insect world, can be more fantastic than even the mythic
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