Pages: 320
Subject: Popular Science
Imprint: Oneworld


An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology

Lisa Margonelli

The strange and surprising power of termites to shape the world
9781786071903 (4 Oct 2018)
RRP £16.99

The Book

With all due respect to bees, the termite stands as the world's most important insect. Without termites much of life on Earth would essentially evaporate. And yet an individual termite is practically invisible, not to mention wholly reviled by humanity.

For Lisa Margonelli, what begins as a bugtastic obsession becomes an exploration of our future. If we can harness the termite's remarkable ability to remake its environment, will that help us avoid a global food crisis? If we create killer robobugs, what happens if the swarms run off script?

A masterpiece of popular science, Underbug touches on everything from metaphysical meditation, technological innovation and the psychology of obsession to good old-fashioned biology.

Additional Information

Subject Popular Science
Pages 320
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Lisa Margonelli is the author of Oil on the Brain, a national bestseller which the American Library Association named one of the 25 Notable Books of 2007. She has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, Atlantic, Scientific American, National Geographic and Wired. She lives in Maine.


‘A book about termites landed on my desk and, dear reader, it is so good that it came within a whisker of achieving the full weight of a maximum 9.8 Newtons…Governments and businesses (and the military) have invested a lot of money into termite investigations. And this excellent book follows the twists and turns of the eccentric scientists involved.'

- BA Business Life

‘An eminently readable melange of the termite microcosm.'

- BBC Wildlife

'Turns cutting-edge science into rich narrative by plunging deep into the termite's world...Margonelli's masterly book is a timely, thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be human, as much as what it means to be termite, and a penetrating look at the moral challenges of our ongoing technological revolution.' 

- The New York Times

‘…one of the finest writers and most original thinkers we have. A surprising, swirling, fantastically unpredictable, thought-provoking, funny, and (depending on your species) delicious book.'

- Mary Roach, author of Grunt and Gulp

‘In a unique voice that's wry, inventive, and acrobatic, Margonelli takes us on a termite-guided exploration of subterranean tracts of nature, science, and robotics. The book is brimming with flair. Prepare to find yourself absorbed.'

- Peter Godfrey-Smith, author of Other Minds

‘A revealing exploration of one of the most inscrutable insects ever to dominate our planet.'

- Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows

‘Unlikely but fascinating...[this] far-ranging work touches on the nature of individuality, the use of drones by the military, the applicability of concepts of good and evil to science, and the creation of biofuels created using the termite gut, among other topics. Margonelli brings all of this to light by making complex, cutting-edge science understandable to the general reader, while also conveying the excitement, frustration, and plain drudgery inherent in the scientific endeavor... Margonelli has written a book as entertaining as it is informative.'

- Publishers Weekly