Insects On Crack


Ever since I’ve been little, I’ve never really paid attention to insects. In my house I would encounter the occasional daddy-long legs spider or see a cockroach creeping across the floor and get the urge to kill it. I’d think, “No, you nasty spider! This is my domain!” and pick up a Kleenex and dispose of that trespasser. I never actually had the ambition to join a club based on something that I don’t really have an interest in. At the beginning of the college year, I was given the task for my Engineering 100 course to join a club or organization and report what you plan to do with such a club in the future. I didn’t really think of it much at first, but then I realized that all throughout high school, I never really ever -not a single time- branched out and stuck with something that was out of my comfort zone and gotten to know other people with strong ambitions in another field. This thought ignited my interest in exploring other options during Quad Day (where all of the clubs join in for an event at the beginning of the year and try to recruit students) and find that one club that would give me a view over that wall. When I saw Club Insecta, I may not have immediately known that that was going to be my outreach group, but after reviewing my other options, I knew it was the one I wanted to “tag along with” and discover what exactly the world is like through the eyes of an Entomologist.

During the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, I went on a trip with the club to Kennekuk Illinois in western Illinois, and later Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, initially to observe. Knowing me, I was easily interested in how easily these students (mainly seniors and graduate students) know how to collect and identify insects in the natural environment and get to see up close insects that I’ve never heard of. I am absolutely surprised by their amazing ability to spot such small caterpillars, spiders, or millipedes in a field of grass with short a short time-span of observation. I had a lot of fun getting to know these students and learning about entomology. Several members still haven’t gotten over the fact that I am the only engineering major in the club, and lighten up conversations by asking questions about what civil is all about and why I chose it. Despite being the minority of the club, I still enjoy coming in to the meetings of the club. During one, we had a graduate student specializing in the psychology of bees give a talk about his research with these insects.  I never knew that certain varieties of bees only do their dance on a horizontal plane, while others only do theirs on a vertical plane, or that the scientific name of the bumblebee literally translates as nectar carrier, yet as a big misconception, bumblebees actually carry pollen, which is converted into glucose within the hive. Although I didn’t get as “hands-on” in the field as a lot of the other students, I still had fun learning from experts in the field about the tricks-of-the-trade, and of course, taking incredible insect photos. I got to know this one student in the club named Tyler, who is also in Horticulture Club with me, show me how to get an Orb Weaver spider to stay still if you want to get a photo of it. I think it was absolutely hilarious how the web from the spider continued to be spun around Tyler’s hand as he tired out the spider. On the side is my absolutely incredible photo that I took – with a camera phone- of this Orb Weaver, a natural insect of the prarie environment.

Knowing many of my friends, this sort of practice of spending time with insects or learning is rather creepy or bizarre, and the club understands that. We have recently been trying to branch out and get people to be interested in insects. The club sort of lightens the subject by hosting events such as the Insect Fear Film Festival or Insect Day, in which a booth is set up in the middle of the Quad and the club explains the “Wow Box” which is basically a box full of curated insects with pins through them and labels added to help bring in the crowd. I’m not exactly sure if my own outlook on insects has changed due to the club. I definitely think a lot more about them now, investing time in videos such as “spiders on crack” or reading the posts on the Club Insecta blog, clubinsecta.wordpress.com. I’m not exactly sure how I should treat the situation when there is an insect crawling on the floor now. Maybe I’ll play it cool and let it out the window or something, as I would respond in a perfect world. No… not on the twelfth floor of a residence hall building. For now I’m resorting to Kleenex-ing them.

Michael

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