Elizabeth Kolbert clearly enjoys her time with David Wagner, an entomologist who teaches at the University of Connecticut. Wagner’s joy in exploring the insect world is infectious, and Kolbert exudes delight in describing their caterpillar-finding expedition. This is a lovely fun piece — but underlaid with some stark warnings about the future of the insect world.

The implicit argument of Wagner’s work is that every larva matters, no matter how small, squishy, and unassuming. Each new species that he collects is a different answer to life’s great conundrum: how to survive on planet Earth. Each has a unique and often startling story to tell.