The Library

Insect Architecture {Free eBook}

Insect Architecture {Free eBook}Insect Architecture by James Rennie is a free public domain eBook originally published in the late 1800s. Including nearly 200 illustrations, Insect Architecture seeks to encourage us to exercise “minute and careful attention” when observing the commonest things around us.

A collection of insects is to the true naturalist what a collection of medals is to the accurate student of history. The mere collector, who looks only to the shining wings of the one, or the green rust of the other, derives little knowledge from his pursuit. But the cabinet of the naturalist becomes rich in the most interesting subjects of contemplation, when he regards it in the genuine spirit of scientific inquiry. What, for instance, can be so delightful as to examine the wonderful variety of structure in this portion of the creation; and, above all, to trace the beautiful gradations by which one species runs into another? Their differences are so minute, that an unpractised eye would proclaim their identity; and yet, when the species are separated, and not very distantly, they become visible even to the common observer.

And this attention to detail is what Insect Architecture offers the reader as the book covers the differences between insects in the following families:

  • Wasps and bees.
  • Caterpillars and moths.
  • Worms.
  • Beetles.
  • Crickets.
  • Ants.
  • Spiders.
  • Aphids.
  • Many others.

Because of the detail (and older language) this title is likely better suited to the avid student of insects. But for those ready to dive in, the subject matter remains interesting, if very thorough. For example, regarding spiders:

We do not recollect that naturalists have ventured to assign any cause for this very remarkable multiplicity of the spinnerules of spiders, so different from the simple spinneret of caterpillars. To us it appears to be an admirable provision for their mode of life. Caterpillars neither require such strong materials, nor that their thread should dry as quickly. It is well known in our manufactures, particularly in rope-spinning, that in cords of equal thickness, those which are composed of many smaller ones united are greatly stronger than those which are spun at once. In the instance of the spider’s thread, this principle must hold still more strikingly, inasmuch as it is composed of fluid materials that require to be dried rapidly, and this drying must be greatly facilitated by exposing so many to the air separately before their union, which is effected at the distance of about a tenth of an inch from the spinnerets. In the following figure each of the threads represented is reckoned to contain one hundred minute threads, the whole forming only one of the spider’s common threads.

Leeuwenhoeck, in one of his extraordinary microscopical observations on a young spider not bigger than a grain of sand, upon enumerating the threadlets in one of its threads, calculated that it would require four millions of them to be as thick as a hair of his beard.

So in two paragraphs we are learning about the spinnerets of spiders, comparing and contrasting them to those of caterpillars, and drawing from Leeuenhoeck!

Great option for students of nature ready to learn, take notes, illustrate … and remember!

Free eBook


Additional Resources

If you decide to work through the book as a family, here are some resources suitable for younger children who may be working along with you.

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}
Great for creating an “insect architecture” notebook!