Almost three quarters of the animals on earth are insects. In 'Housemates', entomologist Aglaia Bouma entertainingly recounts her, at times, moving experience with these living beings that are generally met with little sympathy or enthusiasm. Discovery usually means annihilation. These small creatures often keep themselves hidden and most of them escape our attention. But if you know where to look you will find hundreds of species of insects scurrying, scuttling and flying around a home, all year round. They are fascinating to those who look closely.

Original title
Aglaia Bouma

Bouma does just this. With humour and great expertise, she takes the reader into the nooks and crannies of her attic, into the pots of herbs in the kitchen and the stones and soil in her garden. She tenderly rescues a queen wasp and keeps it chilled in a little box in her fridge so that it will survive. She shows us social cockroaches and caring earwigs, optimistic bumblebees and bizarre dryindae (which lay their eggs inside other insects), she points out assistance from unexpected quarters (other species) and it becomes clear why one bedbug or wasp can ruin it for the whole community.

Bouma does a fantastic job of enthusing the reader for even the most off-putting insects and explaining the complex ecological relationships between species, their life cycles and the food web, in an understandable and engaging manner. Her cameo stories usually end with wonderment and a plea for humans to at least tolerate these insects.

‘Cold, wind and rain drive people into their homes, where they endure the winter dressed in warm sweaters. Some people like this season. They can retreat into a shelter and relative safety, like being in a cocoon. Maybe this is how the pupae in my fridge would have felt if I can’t put them in the cold. But I did this for their own sake. […] I foresaw a problem. This wasn’t my eaten-away kitchen herbs, I didn’t mind sharing them. No, it was the season, or more accurately, the lack of a season in my warm house.’

‘After reading Bouma’s book, you get the urge to open your doors wide to all those fascinating housemates – let them stay, room enough! And it is precisely this connectedness that we need in order to tackle the insect crisis. If we feel enough positive emotions for these special animals, reason should hopefully follow.’


‘In Housemates, Aglaia Bouma opens our eyes to the tiny creatures in our immediate environment. […] Bouma’s light, humorous tone is a breath of fresh air in the doom and gloom that hangs over this subject.’

de Volkskrant
Aglaia Bouma
Aglaia Bouma (b. 1970) is a writer, speaker and entomologist. She is a researcher at Naturalis and has a popular column on insects in the broadsheet NRC. Her first book 'Insect Kingdom' (2020) was translated into Italian.
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