Ritchie's catch-all compendium on the role of insects in human history, often wanders from his subject--a look at the Black Death, for example, leads from Boccaccio to the Canterbury Tales--but more often he incorporates everything in sight into his very accommodating theme. Thus, as he traces cause and effect, man-insect relationships have been responsible for North African carpets (they protected prostrate worshippers from the creepy crawlers), the invention of paper, the independence of the American colonies, black slavery in the South, the diving bell, and--in a chain that begins with the Great Silk Route--the Age of Technology and its ""most fearful product,"" the atom bomb. Insects played a role in the Anglo-Saxon defeat in 1066 and a more famous one in Robert of Bruce's victory some 250 years later. And, when they are not influencing the course of history, insects are enjoyed by humans for music and as food, medicine, and personal adornment. Part fact, part legend, part established opinion or previous suggestion, part his own construction--an unevenly reliable, fitfully diverting meander.