|"If variety is indeed the spice of life, then insects are the spiciest creatures on earth."|
-Ken Kaufman, Naturalist and creator of field guides
|This is the original collection as submitted for my final grade in Entomology (2003)|
Backyard Bugging: I have no idea why this isn't at least as popular as birding. Think of them as tiny birds! There are an amazing number and variety of insects to be found in your backyard or even a city park; one need not travel far to view them (though this is fun, too). Once you start noticing them, you can't help but begin to see them everywhere. Suddenly those "wasps" you thought you were seeing all your life become not just random wasps, but beetles, moths, and flies that mimic wasps; and among the actual wasps you begin to differentiate between them and know this one as a spider-hunter, and this one as a thread-waist. Neat!
My start: One day as an eight year old in elementary school, I took stock of my life's obsessions (cats, cartoons, dinosaurs, etc) and realized I had exhausted the resources of my small community library on these subjects. I needed a new obsession so I could check out more books! The library book that called to me in this hour of childhood need happened to be about insects. A short time before this I had discovered my first cicada skin, and thus the obsession took root. I checked out all of the books they had on the subject; my favorites being the field guides and a book written for kids about creating a bug club (and so I established the Cicada Club, membership 2). I poured over the field guides and the bugs began revealing themselves in my yard.
I did not return to the subject in earnest until college. In 2003 I took a course in entomology at UCF - this was by far my favorite class. I was required to collect at least 200 specimens representing 15 different insect orders and 75 different families. During the lab, we used a dissecting scope and dichotomous keys to key out our collections to the family level. I felt a little sorry for killing them, but collecting was so much fun I didn't let it bother me too much at the time.
Nowadays: I very rarely take a specimen (haven't in years actually), preferring to photograph them instead using a simple point-and-shoot digital camera (with its infernal focusing issues!). I use the photos as reference for my drawings. I have learned to take the camera with me on walks, or just when I'm hanging out in the Dirt Patch because you never know when you will run across something really amazing. This blog is quickly becoming my digital insect collection (in addition to being a repository for other random things). I tend to get lazy with the field notation, but if you want to be a proper field biologist, you should note when, where, and in what type of habitat (and/or plant species) you found your bugs. In addition to field guides, Bug Guide is a great resource for helping to figure out what you've got!