The Secret World of Wasps – Prof Seirian Sumner
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. Her book Endless Forms is a work to upturn your expectations about one overlooked animal and the wider architecture of our natural world.
With endless surprises, this talk 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.
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.
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