I am dismayed to reveal that my apartment is home to uncounted numbers of freeloaders. In fact, every evening, when I turn the lights on, I witness these tiny marauders’ mad dash for the cracks in the walls and the space under the refrigerator. I am talking about the East Coast plague: cockroaches. You know; vile, disgusting, nearly ubiquitous bugs. However, I feel much better knowing that everyone’s home, regardless of how sterile it is, is occupied by a vast collection of invertebrate roommates. In fact, as you will learn from reading A Field Guide to Household Bugs: It’s a Jungle in Here by Joshua Abarbanel and Jeff Swimmer (NYC: Plume; 2007), these pests can be found absolutely everywhere; from your pillows to your eyelashes, from your pantries to your panties, and especially lurking in your kitchens and bathrooms in apartments, homes, restaurants and hotels.
This charming little book provides basic fun facts about these insect pests — for example, did you know that the dust mite is the most common household pest? It’s true. When you go to sleep, you are sharing your bed with as many as 10 million of them. This gives a whole new meaning to “sleeping alone”, doesn’t it?
The book describes ways to kill these unwanted houseguests, using methods ranging from sticky traps to thermonuclear devices. Of course, most of these unwanted roommates are difficult, at best, to kill en masse, but this serves to give you a whole new appreciation for the sheer toughness of the insects that occupy your homes. For example, I can personally attest to the toughness of cockroaches since my numerous attempts to microwave them to death have been distressingly unsuccessful.
As all good field guides should do, this book also includes many gorgeous images — electron micrographs that provide stunning detail of the creatures that we love to hate. So throughout the pages of this book, you can come eyeball to eyeball with creatures such as bedbugs, earwigs, termites, assassin bugs and fleas. As if the information and images are not interesting enough, the book also comes with a magnifying glass so you can examine these critters first-hand when you find them walking along your bathroom sink or sucking blood from your arm.
This inexpensive and charming little paperback consist of 128 pages and is relatively well-written. I especially recommend it to kids and to those who are suffering from an indoor wildlife problem (basically, everyone). I also think that entomologists, those who admire insects and those who work in pest control would enjoy this book.
Joshua Abarbanel is an artist who uses cutting-edge graphic software to create large-scale works on paper that have been exhibited in Los Angeles and New York, and designs fabric patterns for the textile industry.
Jeff Swimmer is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. He has produced and written programs about science and history for PBS, BBC, National Geographic, Discovery, CNN and other major broadcasters.