Skip to main content


An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology

Lisa Margonelli

Who has the answer to the world’s fuel problems? How can we bring ruined land back to life? Where do roboticists turn when they try to engineer a hive mind? 


Strange though it seems, scientists look to tiny termites for answers to some big ideas. Lisa Margonelli tracks them, deep into their mounds to find out how termites can change the world. Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology touches on everything from meditation, innovation and the psychology of obsession to good old-fashioned biology.

  • Publication date: April 2, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781786076823
  • RRP: £9.99
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: October 4, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786071903
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 320
  • Publication date: October 4, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786071910
  • RRP: £9.998.99
  • Pages: 320


‘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

‘An eminently readable melange of the termite microcosm.’

BBC Wildlife

‘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

‘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

‘Termites are not just the destructive force that homeowners know and hate―“architects of negative space,” as environmental writer Lisa Margonelli wittily puts it. They also comprise a kind of entomological three-ring circus, and this round-up of research on the eusocial insects is a ticket to the show… This is a wild ride through a hidden microcosmos stretching from Australia to Namibia.’

Barbara Kiser, Nature

‘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

Lisa Margonelli

Author page

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to our newsletters to find out more about our latest books and offers, straight to your inbox.
Select mailing lists