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Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America's Great Forests

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  133 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
A Globe & Mail Top 100 Selection

Beginning in the late 1980s, a series of pine beetle (also known as the bark beetle) outbreaks unsettled iconic forests and communities across western North America. An insect the size of a rice kernel eventually killed more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees from Alaska to New Mexico.

The pine beetle didn't act alone. Misguided scien
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by Greystone Books / David Suzuki Foundation
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Ruth Seeley
Dec 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read that, unfortunately, is mostly a scathing indictment of corporate and political folly (what's unfortunate about it is that there doesn't seem to be any way back, given the perfect storm we've colluded in creating by promoting monoculture instead of the natural diversity nature intended). Nikiforuk's a compelling writer, and provides an excellent overview of the factors that have combined to doom our forests: a refusal to let forests renew themselves by fire; global warming lea ...more
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This might be the only book about forests I'd recommend to the average reader ahead of The Golden Spruce. Basically global warming and fire suppression have created a perfect storm, with beetles breeding faster, surviving winter more often and increasing in range every year. The Mountain Pine Beetle's moved east through Alberta's Peace river area, and now has unimpeded access to Jack Pines from Yukon to Newfoundland. There's a truly terrifying scale to all bark beetle bubbles from towering Sitka ...more
Diana Sandberg
Wow - a non-fiction book that I found as compelling reading as a good novel. Nikiforuk deftly interweaves information about the recent history of various beetle infestations of forests with a larger focus on the ecology of forests in general, the life cycle of these beetles and the complexity of their interactions with not only trees but mites and fungus. He includes stories of ancient trees with singular pollinators and their crucial significance to bears. And he delineates the human elements - ...more
Jace Stansbury
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For all you beetle lovers this is the book for you.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Mountain Pine Beetle infestation has been somewhat interesting to me for a few years now, but seeing the devastation creep increasingly forward through our Rocky Mountain forests have really brought it to the forefront of my mind. This book was quite a fascinating explanation on the MPB and other bark beetles damaging various forests throughout western North America. Very insightful look at forest management practices and climate change that are creating ideal situations for the beetles to m ...more
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty interesting book, although I'm glad to be done with it for the simple reason that the author really, really likes to describe excrement as "shit." I know there's nothing inherently WRONG with swears, but COME ON, you're a WRITER, use your words! I also found it EXTREMELY aggravating that every time the author uses the term "Frass," he nearly ALWAYS parenthetically defined it as "sawdust and beetle shit." He uses the word frass fairly often, too; if I haven't gotten it by the first two tim ...more
Leo Saumure
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although a tad repetitive from chapter to chapter (more and more bugs eating more and more timber), the unique nuggets do emerge in each chapter, and I was compelled to keep reading more and more.
A very good book with a message that, hopefully, will make it through to business and policy makers.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals, nature
Very informational. Provides insight not only about the bark beetles but how nature functions through their example.
William Irwin
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hello. I would recommend ignoring some of the petty complaints made below and to read this book. Too important a subject to dismiss due to online silliness.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mortalform by: ALECC conference
An Anchorage newspaper made an astute observation about the infestation: "In a sense the beetle is managing spruce forests by killing old trees and leaving the new. But the Forest Service would rather manage its own trees. And has been experimenting with ways to beat the beetle at its game." p 9

This book brilliantly illustrates the fact that humanity does more harm than good when it gets in the way of nature's design. As humans we simply lack the capacity to understand nature's systems with the
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Overall, I quite liked this book. Entertaining to read, and of course I feel like I finally have a proper understanding of the beetle phenomena. I totally agree with Nikiforuk's analysis of the forest industry and in fact, feel like he could have been even MORE damning of it at times. My only problem with the book was the occasional metaphor that felt a bit overdramatic, and redundant. He occasionally repeats himself, although it's not too big of a problem. I'll definitely read some more from hi ...more
Rebecca Ferrera
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is very informative and certainly contains as much information about bugs as I've ever wanted to know. It has been a while since I've read it, but I recall feeling a bit depressed after finishing the book, with a sense of doom about all western forests. Since then the beetle disaster has faded from the news and the crisis was apparently dealt with, but my money is on the certainty that there's another one just around the corner that has resulted (or will result) from climate change.
Mar 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: amznsell, own
Have always wondered about the pine beetles and folks always ask me since I'm an entomologist. The book was a bit dry and repetitive, but an interesting exploration of the underlying dangers to America's forests made apparent, but not necessarily caused by, the pine beetle. Could have done without the random side comments about Stephen wood being a Mormon...they were unneeded jabs that had nothing to do with the story and interrupted the flow of the scientific text.
Buddy Burton
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a yearning for life
It was a really interesting read. Sure it was a bit technical at times and I might not have known the meaning of the odd word here or there. But I was thoroughly interested all the time and honestly feel like I learned a lot. Not just brain knowledge but also growth in my understanding of the world as a whole.

Thank you Mr. Nikiforuk
Emiko Morita
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I think Mr. Nikiforuk fell in love with beetles while researching this book! It's a fascinating read and I loved the anecdotes about artists who have created everything from compositions to sculptures.
Jerry Haigh
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Much more information about beetles than I had ever realized. Human folly and greed and their failed attempts to deal with natural cycles. A thoroughly researched account that will fascinate students of natural history.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wow, great read heartbreaking and life-affirming at the same time. Nikiforuk really brings out the complexity of the beetle-tree interaction and tries to disabuse us of the notion that we can control ecosystems.
Charles Tripp
Jun 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
To opinionated for me, if the author stuck to the facts and didn't place his opinion of every fact that he stated it would have been a great book, great writing tho. I would like to check other books by this author to see how he is on other topics.
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Who knew a book about beetles could be so enthralling? I really only picked this up because I enjoyed Nikiforuk's Tar Sands book so much - but am I ever glad I did.
David Kessler
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book which shows how foulish we can be in trying to stop nature run its course.
Short and sweet reading.
Sep 10, 2012 rated it liked it
While the content was extremely interesting and important, it seemed as if the author ran out of time to incorporate edits and make his thoughts flow coherently.
Mike Dettinger
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Important for any one living and caring about western landscapes. And well written too.
Mar 22, 2016 rated it liked it
This book needed maps and photos. Some of the metaphors were crass and offensive. But, I liked the cultural history of the beetle at the end.
Feb 19, 2013 added it
Shelves: motw
Read by ACRL Member of the Week Kathleen Monks. Learn more about Kathleen on the ACRL Insider blog.
Kathleen McRae
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellant read! Is it true? This book could convince me. It is well documented
Wen Xiang
rated it it was amazing
Aug 23, 2012
rated it it was amazing
Jan 11, 2014
Heike Lttrr
rated it really liked it
Mar 29, 2013
rated it liked it
Jan 15, 2012
Rob Orton
rated it liked it
Oct 25, 2014
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Andrew Nikiforuk is a leading investigative journalist who has written about education, economics, and the environment for the past two decades. His work has appeared in a variety of Canadian publications including The Walrus, Maclean's, Canadian Business, Report on Business, Chatelaine, Georgia Straight, Equinox and Harrowsmith.

He is the author of the critically acclaimed Empire of the Beetle and

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