Extinct & Endangered

Insects in Peril

Levon Biss and American Museum of Natural History | 2022, Harry Abrams

Pay attention to insects. Many pollinate plants. Some recycle plant and animal matter into the soil. They are food for countless other living things—and for one another, often keeping pest populations in check. Whether beetles, bees or butterflies, insects help natural ecosystems stay healthy.

But the evidence is clear: many insect species are in decline. The ones featured here are vulnerable, imperilled—or have already disappeared—and human changes to the land and climate are primary reasons.

Extraordinary images are at once our most familiar and our most mysterious fellow creatures. They seem indestructible, but on a global scale, insect species are quietly disappearing in today’s sixth mass extinction of life.

This joint project by photographer Levon Biss and the American Museum of Natural History contains indelible images of 40 extinct or endangered species in the museum’s collection, selected from its vast holdings by a team of scientists. Photographer Levon Biss invites us to look closely at these insects and reflect on their importance to our shared planet.

They range from endangered old friends such as the monarch butterfly and the nine-spotted ladybug to the distant Lord Howe Island phasma of Australia, thought to be extinct for most of the 20th century until a small population was discovered and bred in captivity in 2001.

All were sent to Biss’s studio, where he created imposing portraits that can be enlarged 300 times life-size to reveal vivid detail on a full page of form and colour – a world invisible to our naked eyes. The result is a book that insists on the momentous significance of these small, mostly unknown creatures.

Please Visit extinctandendangered.com and microsculpture.net.


Biss, L. and American Museum of Natural History  (2022) Extinct & Endangered: Insects in Peril. New York: Harry Abrams

The Mind of a Bee

Most of us are aware of the hive mind—the power of bees as an amazing collective. But do we know how uniquely intelligent bees are as individuals? In The Mind of a Bee, scientist and author Lars Chittka draws from decades of research, including his own pioneering work, to argue that bees have remarkable cognitive abilities. He shows that they are profoundly smart, have distinct personalities, can recognize flowers and human faces, exhibit basic emotions, count, use simple tools, solve problems, and learn by observing others. They may even possess consciousness.

Taking readers deep into the sensory world of bees, Chittka illustrates how bee brains are unparalleled in the animal kingdom in terms of how much sophisticated material is packed into their tiny nervous systems. He looks at their innate behaviors and the ways their evolution as foragers may have contributed to their keen spatial memory. Chittka also examines the psychological differences between bees and the ethical dilemmas that arise in conservation and laboratory settings because bees feel and think. Throughout, he touches on the fascinating history behind the study of bee behavior.

Exploring an insect whose sensory experiences rival those of humans, The Mind of a Bee reveals the singular abilities of some of the world’s most incredible creatures.


Chittka, L. (2022) The Mind of a Bee. Princeton, USA: Princeton University Press.