Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Props to the Bee Maven

Lots of buzz about bee maven extraordinaire May Berenbaum, winner of the 2011 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. A longtime professor of entomology at the University of Illinois of Urbana-Champaign, Berenbaum won the prize partly for her groundbreaking work into the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder, the mysterious plague striking honeybee colonies across North America, as well as for her many contributions to our understanding of plant-insect interactions. Through her many books for the general reader, insectophile or -phobe, she has become an ambassador for the little things that run the world.

Don't know May? You ought to. She knows her bees and beetles, moths and roaches. She has organized a long-running Insect Fear Film Festival, now in its 28th year. And she's a very, very funny writer. I had the pleasure of working with her on The Earwig's Tail, a "modern bestiary" of essays debunking urban legends about insects in the age of the Internet. You can learn more about that book, with splendid art by Jay Hosler, here.

And there probably isn't another person on the planet whose ego is in such spectacular inverse proportion to her wit, intelligence, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, generosity, and warmth.

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