Phil Lester

Pests and Pestilence: The Management of Invasive Species, Pests and Disease in New Zealand

ISBN: 9781776920082
Pages: 296
Format: Paperback
Dimensions: 210x160mm
Publication Date: August 2022



‘Pestilence’ is a word that conjures up destruction at a large scale. It can be a plague of ravenous rabbits, millions of wilding pines that swallow up landscapes, a virus that brings the world to its knees within weeks of emergence.

In Phil Lester’s new book we dive deep into the world of pestilence. We learn the stories of pests that are plants, animals and pathogens, and consider how we can manage their spread in Aotearoa and around the world.

The human movement of diseases and pests has affected every corner of the globe, even Antarctica. We need effective management approaches that cause the least possible harm, especially as our population grows and we become increasingly connected. Lester explores the problems of international movement, methodologies designed to limit the unintentional introduction of species across borders, New Zealand’s biosecurity legislation, the limits and possibilities of eradication as a goal, the means of population control, and the management of pathogens in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Illuminating this discussion are stories of cats on parachutes, angry hippos, cannibalistic cane toads, and a cook who unwittingly gave typhoid to at least 51 other people. 

Fascinating and lucidly written, Pests and Pestilence draws on many strands of history and science to ask how we can best manage the pathogens, animal and plant species that can do us harm.

'An engaging and well-illustrated insight into the impacts that pests and diseases have on the whole biosphere, and the challenges of managing them.' —Dan Tompkins, Director of Predator Free 2050

'Pests and Pestilence is in many ways the book for the age. It makes the point that all options have potential consequences, as does doing nothing.' —Travis Glare, Professor of Applied Entomology, Lincoln University

'A fascinating overview of the pests that have had some of the biggest impacts on ecosystems, people, crops and livestock globally. You'll be inspired, repulsed and intrigued in equal measure, yet end on a feeling of hope: that novel approaches and emerging technologies to combat pests and pestilence are within our grasp.' —Andrea Byrom, ecologist and kairangi at Te Pūnaha Matatini

A professor in ecology and entomology at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, Phil Lester has published around 150 papers on invasive species and their management. He has specialised in the management of invasive ants and wasps and the parasites and diseases affecting bees. Phil has won Fulbright and Royal Society Te Apārangi James Cook Research Fellowships. He is an appointed member of the Environmental Protection Authority’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Committee, which considers the use of hazardous substances and new organisms for pest control in New Zealand. His previous books are The Vulgar Wasp (2018) and Healthy Bee, Sick Bee (2020).

Cover photograph: Stephen Jaquiery