Friday 5: Things I’ve Learned from My Students on Camping Trips

Two of the lab classes I’ve taught regularly as a grad student involve camping trips.  Dragging a mixed bunch of undergrads and grads out into the field together is always an adventure!  I am a huge night owl, so the best part of these trips to me is sitting around the fire until 1AM, 2AM, sometimes 3 or 4AM, talking with everyone.  I’ve learned some very interesting things from my students around the campfire, so I thought I would share 5 of these tidbits.

Reynold's Creek

Reynold's Creek, one of my favorite places to camp along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

1. South Park is the greatest TV show of all time.  Let me state up front that I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement and do not like South Park at all (kudos to those of you who do!), but to hear my students tell it, South Park is the most brilliantly hilarious show ever to grace our television screens.  They quote South Park endlessly and sometimes spend hours talking about nothing but South Park.  My most recent class camping trip involved a THREE HOUR long discussion of it, complete with reenactments of choice scenes as well as most of one episode.  Every time someone steered the conversation away from South Park they came right back to it.  It was a little crazy!  So, almost without fail, undergrads+grads+camping = South Park <3.

Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore Canyon. I camp here with students, and just for fun, a lot.

2. Some students drink entirely too much caffeine.  One of my students a few years back had a serious addiction to caffeine.  He literally drank 5 Monster Energy Drinks a day – and 5 hour energy shots in between.  Considering how recent findings have suggested that you should max out at about 3 cups of coffee a day, I don’t understand how his beverage choices didn’t make him horribly sick.  He seemed okay.  Awfully twitchy though…



3. Flaming marshmallows are dangerous projectiles.  Marshmallows usually happen around 11PM or so.  Everyone wanders off into the dark to find sticks, skewers a marshmallow, and gets toasting.  EVERY time, someone’s marshmallow catches on fire.  That person never calmly dumps the marshmallow into the fire and starts over.  Oh no!  He/she has to wave the flaming marshmallow wildly about trying to extinguish it.  Let me tell you that there are few things scarier than a flaming ball of molten sugar sailing through the air toward you!  If one of those were ever to hit someone… Or a patch of dry grass…  The last 4 or 5 trips, I’ve laid out some ground rules before passing the marshmallows around the circle, particularly this: If your marshmallow catches on fire, under no circumstances are you to try to put the fire out by waving your stick around!  Though I can’t be 100% certain of it, I think this rule has averted some disasters.

Harshaw Creek

We camp under a huge tree at this site, along Harshaw Creek

4. There’s a bar in Tucson where you can get branded.  As a non-drinker, this was news to me the first time I heard it!  There’s a bar called the Meet Rack with a very strange owner.  This owner has legally changed his name to God and has decorate his establishment with bras and sex toys.  At his bar, you can, among other things, tour his weird little sex dungeon and get branded.  Why might people want to be branded, with “God’s” likeness no less, you might ask?  For drink discounts of course!  If you get branded, you get $.50 off all drinks forever – and apparently hundreds of people have been willing to be branded for the perpetual coupon.  This simply blows my mind!  The majority of my students are just over 21, so drinking and going to bars is a really big deal to them.  Based on the number of stories I’ve heard, they’ve all been to the Meet Rack, though none of them have been branded yet.


Snow! It commonly snows on camping trips to northern Arizona.

5. Sometimes you just have to laugh.  I had a student once who grew up in Phoenix and had never been camping before.  She didn’t really understand the concept of “cold” even though I tried my best to scare her so she’d overcompensate and bring enough to stay warm.  On our trip to northern Arizona, she showed up with a little sleeping bag meant for indoor sleepovers and a cruddy little tent for kids (her little sister used both for Girl Scouts), things I wasn’t aware of until we started setting up camp the first night and it was too late for me to run home and grab my extra gear for her.  She and her tent mate were miserable both nights as we camped on top of snow and endured temperatures well below freezing.  The second night, there was freezing rain all evening that turned to snow around midnight.  At about 2:30 in the morning, I heard maniacal laughter coming from across camp.  The next morning I learned that the two girls were laughing because the snow piling up on their tent caused it to collapse.  They were so cold and so wet and so miserable at that point that they started laughing.  As they described it, laughing was the only thing they could do to make the situation any better, so they laughed.  Then they spent the rest of the night in the van.  I have always loved the sentiment, that sometimes things are so bad that all you can do to make things better is laugh.  This is probably the best thing I’ve learned from my students.

You have probably noticed by now, but I love to end Friday 5 posts with questions.  Have you ever gained knowledge or wisdom around a campfire?  I always come home from camping trips with new ideas and information and I love it!  I hope I’m not the only one though, so I’d love to hear your stories.  Leave comments below!


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Friday 5: Buggy Fiction

I feel like I haven’t written about insect books recently, so it’s time for another Friday 5 insect book list!  This week, I bring you fictional books that feature insects and other arthropods, because they’re just so darned fun!  I read a really huge range of things, especially when it comes to fiction, so I’ve got  little of everything on this week’s list:

Contemporary Fiction: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

I absolutely love Barbara Kingsolver’s books!  Her prose is astoundingly well crafted and the stories hold my interest well.  Prodigal Summer is my favorite of her books.  The story revolves around the lives of three women in Appalachia, a wildlife biologist who studies a group of coyotes that have just returned to the area after a long absence, an organic farmer at war with her farmer neighbor who thinks her farming practices are ruining his livelihood, and a young, big city entomologist who unexpectedly becomes the head of a farm when her farmer husband dies.  (Guess which story I like the best!)  The relationships these women form are interesting and beautiful and the book contains some of the most elegant writing about nature I’ve ever read.  And did I mention that there’s an entomologist in the book?  I just love it!  I recommend it to anyone who has even a passing interest in nature.  It’s that good!

Classic Fiction: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

You didn’t think you’d get through this list without hearing about this one, did you?  THE classic entomological tale of a man who wakes up one morning to discover he’s been transformed into a giant insect, only to become an object of derision to everyone around him.  There are, of course, all sorts of other things you can say about the book, about how becoming an insect is symbolic of the alienation that young men often feel, etc, etc.  But really, what’s cooler than a whole book about a giant man-bug?  Nothing, that’s what!  :)

Historical Fiction: Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson

I have to admit: I only read this book because I was browsing a bargain book rack at Barnes and Noble and saw the beetle on the cover.  It sounded pretty good and it cost $4, so I went for it!  Set in Victorian times, at the dawning of the theory of evolution and in time when naturalists were superstars, Drayson’s story follows an entomologist/naturalist who is marooned on an island in the South Pacific.  The man recounts his childhood with Charles Darwin, describing their shared love of beetles, how they developed the descriptions of natural selection that made Charles Darwin famous together, and how his search for an elusive gold beetle has left him to die on a volcanic island that’s about to explosively erupt.  The book is a little bizarre at times, but it’s also a lot of fun to read.  And, as the title suggests, there just might be a murder…

Sci-fi: Bug Park by James P. Hogan

I adore sci-fi movies, but I don’t read a lot of sci-fi books.  However, my husband grew up reading pulp sci-fi novels and has a large collection of classics.  This is one of them.  In Bug Park, a scientist develops a direct connection between the brain and tiny insect-sized robots (mecs), allowing people to experience a bug’s eye view of the world.  However, his scheming wife wants to steal the technology and sell it to a rival company.  Meanwhile, the scientist’s son and his girlfriend become expert mec users, creating Bug Park so they can explore and battle the insect world.  When they uncover the plot to sell the technology, they decided to find the evidence to take the scheming wife/stepmother down – but things don’t go exactly according to plan (of course).  Mec battles, giant insects, and viewing the world through a bug’s perspective are all part of the fun in Bug Park!

Fantasy: Ananzi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors and he writes gloriously dark, beautifully written short stories, novels, and graphic novels.  I am working my way through all of his books and I’ve read Good Omens, which he co-authored with Terry Pratchett, at least 20 times.  Good Omens will always be my favorite Gaiman book, but Ananzi Boys is my favorite of the books he’s written on his own.  In it, Fat Charlie Nancy decides to invite his estranged father to his wedding only to discover that his father has recently died.  When he returns home for the funeral, he learns that his father wasn’t just any man, but the African trickster god Ananzi.  He also learns he has a brother, Spider, that he never knew about.  Spider becomes a part of his life and all hell breaks loose!  All of Neil Gaiman’s books are strange and at times outright confusing, but this story is a really good one – and it would be good even if it didn’t feature so much entomological imagery.

Anyone else have bug fiction books they want to recommend?  I’m always on the lookout for new ones, so I welcome any suggestions!


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Friday 5: 5 Native Butterflies at the Marshall Butterfly Pavillion

It’s time for another Friday 5!  Last week I said I would highlight some of the butterflies I saw on one of my recent insect zoo visits.  The butterflies at the Marshall Butterfly Pavillion at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix is a little unusual for a butterfly house because it features butterflies native to the United States rather than the tropical species most butterfly houses favor. We have some really spectacular butterflies in the US though! Case in point, the following 5 butterflies I photographed in the Marshall exhibit:

Zebra Heliconian


Zebra longwing butterfly, Heliconius charithonia

The longwing butterflies have fascinated scientists and collectors for ages.  They tend to be brightly colored and have a lot of intricate markings that scientists use to study genetics, mimicry, and other big biological problems.  The longwings are mostly tropical and we don’t have all that many species in the US, but we do have a few.  The zebra longwing butterfly (also known as a zebra heliconian) shown here is pretty darned impressive!  This particular individual is a little worn and a little ragged, but he (or she) is still very beautiful.  I love the little hints of red!  I think what makes the longwings so lovely is their elegant wing shape.  As their common name suggests, they do have long, narrow wings and these make them stand out against their bulkier-winged butterfly relatives.  I wish we had these in Arizona (we might get an occasional individual that took a wrong turn somewhere in Mexico!), but they are sadly not native to my state.  However, because they are featured in a butterfly exhibit only 2 hours away, I can go see live ones whenever Marshall is open during the cooler months.  Score!

Painted Lady

painted lady

Painted lady, Vanessa cardui

Painted ladies are super common in Arizona.  Actually, they are super common in most of the US and many other parts of the world.  That doesn’t make them any less gorgeous though!  I think there’s something so perfect about the combination of orange and black in butterflies.  The underside of the wings in this species are stunning!  They’re reasonably docile too, so they are commonly sold as butterflies for releases at weddings and other events and are often found in live insect exhibits.  When I was working with Insect Discovery in the spring, we had a cage of painted ladies in which our little second graders could sit and make observations about the butterflies.  They loved it, and I loved the bigger, more impressive painted lady enclosure that was the Marshall Butterfly Pavillion.  It doesn’t matter if I could walk outside the enclosure and see the exact same species on a flower in the gardens – they still made me smile.

Julia Heliconian


Julias (Dryas julia) sucking on an orange

Another of our North American longwing butterflies, the julias are a less ornate than their relatives the zebra longwings.  But look at that stunning orange color!  I took so many photos of these, mostly because the flaming safety orange coloration stood out so well against absolutely everything in the exhibit: the blue glass in the photo, the green plants, the white mesh that made up the walls of the enclosure.  They have the same elegant long wings as the zebras too, and the same range that doesn’t include Arizona.  Sigh…  I’d love to see one of these in the wild!  Maybe someday I’ll make a trip to Texas or Florida to see all the rare and unusual butterflies and dragonflies that you can find there, and nowhere else in the US.

Pipevine Swallowtail


Pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor

This is a swallowtail.  Ignore the lack of tails in the image!  This particular individual had lived a long life by the time I saw it.  Pipevines are common in Arizona, most of the eastern half of the US, and the lower half of the western US.  They are large, 3-5 inches across, so these really stand out.  They might not look quite as showy as some of the other large swallowtails, but the underside of their wings have lovely yellow, orange, and red spots on dark black.  If you get them positioned just right, the upper surface of the wings takes on this amazing blue iridescence too!  I’m not always the biggest fan of butterflies (is it wrong to hate a type of insect because they’re too popular?), but when a pipevine flies by, I stop a moment and appreciate how amazing nature is.  Gorgeous!



White, Pieris sp.

Another somewhat battered individual.  Apparently I wanted to document the poor, downtrodden butterflies while photographing within the Marshall exhibit…  In any case, many of the whites are very common butterflies – and the scourge of gardeners across the US!  Their caterpillars eat brassicas, the sulfur-rich vegetables you love to hate like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower and can cause considerable damage to these food crops.  (Incidentally, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are technically all the same species!)  I like the whites because they’re not quite so gaudy and ostentatious as most butterflies and have a much more subdued elegance to them.  This is the only white I saw in the entire exhibit, a sort of disheveled looking individual cramming itself between flower petals to get at the nectar.  It looked so awkward in this position that I fell instantly in love with it.  I imagine this is the butterfly equivalent of a sticky 3-year-old stoned out of his mind on pixie sticks, reaching for another stick because he just can’t help himself.  :)

See!  We’ve got great butterflies in the US!  We might not have morphos flitting through forests or the spectacular birdwing butterflies, but our butterflies are still awfully nice.  It was rather refreshing to see an American exhibit that actually celebrated our local butterflies rather than looking to the tropics for specimens.  That’s rare, but it made my trip to Marshall seem extra special as a result.

Anyone care to share their favorite North American butterfly?  Leave a comment below!


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Friday 5: Insect Zoos

I have always loved zoos.  Although there are certainly ethical considerations to consider when thinking about how wild animals are held captive for display, I think a lot of zoos do a great job of helping preserve species, protect animals that have been injured and are unable to return to the wild, and educating the public.  I of course also love insect zoos!  I am not terribly well-traveled, but I go to insect zoos whenever I go somewhere that has one.  Granted, most of the exhibits involve butterflies, which are far from my favorite insects, but they’re still fun anyway.  These are five of my favorites so far:

The Butterfly Pavillion

Butterfly Pavillion

You can see how great my photographic skills were when I was 16 and had a very cheap point and shoot 35mm camera. Some random boy looking at some random plant in the butterfly exhibit in 1996, but it's the best shot I have!

This opened in Colorado a few years after I decided I wanted to be an entomologist and I was ecstatic when my parents finally took me.  It was the first butterfly enclosure I visited, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.  The site includes a large tropical butterfly enclosure and several exhibits of both live and preserved insects.  They’ve got a lot of interpretive presentations as well where kids and adults can interact with tarantulas, walking sticks, and other insects to get an up close and personal look at a live arthropod.  Want insect themed gifts?  Their gift shop is pretty awesome.  If you’re ever in the Denver area, this is a really great zoo and well worth a visit.  If you want to have a wedding in Denver, you should consider the Butterfly Pavillion too!  Apparently you can get married INSIDE the butterfly enclosure.  How awesome would that be?!

Butterfly Magic

Butterfly Magic

A really big moth at Butterfly Magic

This is my local butterfly exhibit, housed at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.  It’s only open during the cooler months, but it’s pretty spectacular considering the limited space they have to work with.  This is another tropical butterfly exhibit, so lots of big and showy butterflies and atlas moths flutter about the place.  The other thing I love about this exhibit is the large collection of carnivorous plants!  Carnivorous plants are just so cool.  You’ll pay a little extra to visit the butterfly exhibit in addition to the rest of the gardens, but I’ve been several times and I enjoy it every time.

Marshall Butterfly Pavillion

Marshall Butterfly Pavillion

Insects in the Marshall Butterfly Pavillion sucking up orange juice

I wrote a whole post on this seasonal butterfly exhibit at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix in March, so I won’t go into great detail here.   What makes this particular exhibit stand out in my mind is that it features North American naive butterflies rather than the tropical butterflies most butterfly exhibits favor.  We have some really great native butterflies, so it was nice to see them highlighted in this butterfly zoo.

Tropical Butterfly House

Tropical Butterfly House

The camouflage demonstration at the Tropical Butterfly House

This exhibit is located in Seattle’s fabulous Pacific Science Center, my favorite science museum I’ve been to so far.  I went shortly after the butterfly house first opened (when I was 19 or so) and I’m sure it’s different now, but it was great then!  They have tropical butterflies like so many other insect zoos, but there’s something incredibly serene about wandering around a re-created rainforest with colorful butterflies flying around your head.  My favorite part was the demonstration of camouflage I am modeling in the photo.  My sister still thinks this is the funniest photos of me she has ever taken.   Sadly, this also seems to be the only photo I have of this particular exhibit…

O. Orkin Insect Zoo

O. Orkin Insect Zoo

Entrance to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo circa 1995

When I was in 10th grade, my sister (a 9th grader at a different high school) and I got to go to National History Day in Washington D.C. to compete with a video we made about a railroad war in Colorado.  Something like 11 other people from my school competed at the event, so we all went together and made a big adventure out of it and toured a lot of D.C.  Because it was a history oriented event, most of us started our Smithsonian excursion at the National History Museum.  My sister and I are both biologists though, so we soon ditched the group and went to the National Museum of Natural History instead.  I was so happy we did!  My favorite part was the O. Orkin Insect Zoo (oddly enough), my very first insect zoo.  It was filled with a variety of live and preserved insects, including my first introduction to aquatic insects: a big aquarium filled with live aquatic beetles, bugs, and other pond insects.  I was so excited!  I snapped a photo of the “pond,” but the resulting green blur in the appallingly bad photo isn’t recognizable even to me! Instead, you get another cruddy photo of the entrance to the exhibit as it looked in 1995.  Wonder if it still looks like this…

Yea for insect zoos!  They bring people into contact with insects in non-threatening ways and educate the public about the role that insects play on our planet.  As an entomologist, I mostly just like getting to see a whole bunch of live insects in one place.  I’ve started a list of insect zoos I want to visit in the future, including the Insectarium in New Orleans and the Insectarium in Montreal.  Anyone want to recommend other insect zoos for me to visit?   If so, leave a comment below!


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Friday 5: Why I Love Outreach

Last weekend I participated in the Arizona Insect Festival, the first celebration of insects of its kind hosted by the Department of Entomology at the University of Arizona.  It was a really great event (look for a whole post about it soon!), and I really enjoyed it.  After the Festival, I pretty much collapsed in a heap on my couch and got absolutely nothing accomplished for the rest of the day, but it did get me thinking about all the outreach events I’ve done.  I realized two things.  First, I’ve done a lot of outreach events!  Between a whole semester of visiting schools for Insect Discovery (I worked with kids from 18 different schools!), Meet the Beetles last fall, the Tucson Festival of Books in the spring, Big Bugs earlier this month, and the Festival, I have rocked the entomological outreach events the last year!  Second, there are five things that I really love about doing insect outreach events.  And you all know what I do any time I come up with a list of 5 insect-related things…  Friday 5!  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

1. talking to the Public


Crowd at Meet the Beetles last fall. There were so many people there!

I am an entomologist.  It definitely doesn’t apply to all of us, but we tend to be an introverted lot and we can be socially awkward at times.  (What, you don’t regularly talk about parasitic maggots that infest sheep during dinner?)  We are often much more comfortable talking to other entomologists than the average Joe because other entomologists “get” us in a way non-entomologists never will.  However, when you see us at outreach events, we’re absolutely in our element!  Outreach events are super fun because non-entomologists enter our world for a brief period of time and we suddenly become social superstars!  When the event is over, many of us return to our dark offices/labs and return to our quiet lives, but just for those few hours we have a chance to talk about the things we love with a rapt audience.  It’s fantastic!  As an extra bonus, my blog’s been online long enough now that I meet readers at nearly every event I do.  I might not get to spend more than a few seconds talking to you if things are busy, but I do appreciate it when you introduce yourselves.  And I’ll remember you too!

2.  Socializing with Colleagues


Some of the fabulous colleagues I worked with in the Insect Zoo at the Arizona Insect Festival.

This only happens at the bigger events, but it’s really nice to have a chance to interact with a lot of entomologists all at once.  Big events tend to draw people out of the woodwork, so you get to see colleagues you might rarely see otherwise.  Doing outreach gives me an opportunity to talk to people and catch up on new developments in their lives.  I enjoy getting to socialize with other entomologists – and outreach events are a great place to do it!

3.  Playing with Bugs


Who wouldn't want to play with this gorgeous animal? It's a hickory horned devil, or the caterpillar for the regal moth, and totally harmless.

Okay, so I know I do this practically all day every day, but I still really love getting to play with bugs at outreach events.  It’s such a thrill to pull one of the big Lethocerus giant water bugs out of a jar of water and watch it spread its forelegs menacingly or to poke a dragonfly nymph and see it jet around its container.  Visitors also love it when you grab something and pull it out of the water so that they can get a closer look – or hold the insect themselves if they’re brave enough.

4. Getting People Excited About Bugs


This kid was SO excited about that queen caterpillar!

I think I most love doing outreach because I can help get people who’ve never really thought about insects or who have been scared of insects their whole lives excited about something having to do with bugs.  Of course there are some people who say something like, “Ewww!  Bugs!” and keep right on walking, but most people walk away a little bit better informed and a little more enthusiastic about bugs.  It’s a great feeling!

5.  Wardrobe Upgrades


Some of my recent volunteer shirts. The tarantula was actually from the Tucson Festival of Books and not an insect-centered event (though I was part of an insect outreach booth), but I still love it. The tarantula is made up of letters!

There is usually some incentive provided if you volunteer for outreach events.  I love getting tickets to go on tours at places like the Biosphere II or getting to see the Big Bugs sculptures for free.  A lot of the events I’ve done recently have provided t-shirts, so I get a wardrobe upgrade!  It’s always nice to get free t-shirts, especially when they’re covered in bugs.  :)

Does anyone else out there do science outreach events?  If so, I’d love to hear what you love about them!  Fill up the comments section below!


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Friday 5: Submit Your Photos, Help Scientists and the Public!

I am a big fan of citizen science.  I love that anyone, even if you have absolutely no training as a scientist and only the smallest interest in what scientists actually do, can contribute something meaningful to science.  I myself am amazed by the results that citizen science projects can produce. I have collected nearly 1400 dragonfly swarm reports in the past two years for my own citizen science project and it’s so exciting to see the data flow in!  People who might not otherwise ever participate in science send me valuable data that is helping me really understand how dragonfly swarms work.  It’s great!

Because I’m on a big photography kick thanks to my recent participation in BugShot 2011, I thought I should share some of my favorite citizen science projects that involve photography.  These are all projects that collect photographs of animal and plant sightings and create massive, searchable databases from the information they collect.  These databases can be a help to scientists who are interested in how biological organisms are distributed or the movement of those organisms into and out of particular areas, hence citizen science.  However, many of these are also incredibly useful if you are a non-scientist hoping to identify an insect (or plant or other animal) that you’ve seen.  So, be a do-gooder and help out by contributing your insect photos to one of my five favorite projects:

Odonata Central

Odonata Central

Odonata Central  was born out of a desire to accurately map the distribution of the dragonflies and damselflies of the US.  Now it is a fantastic resource that allows users to create species checklists for their counties, compare their sightings to the photo library as an identification aid, and learn about dragonflies.  The project is currently accepting mostly late and early season sightings of dragonflies and damselflies, new county records, and species with no photos, so you’ll probably need to know a  bit about dragonflies to participate right now.  However, progress is being made toward making this a more open system where anyone can submit any photo of any dragonfly from anywhere in the world and have their sighting added to the database.  So, save up those common dragonfly photos for now, but remember to submit them later!  And definitely make use of this amazing resource in the meantime.

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Butterflies and Moths of North America is a place where anyone can submit photos of lepidopterans they’ve sighted in North America.  User submitted photos are linked to species pages so everyone can see the range in coloration some species exhibit.  Your submissions help create invaluable information about the distribution of each species too.  If you don’t have photos to contribute, use the website as an excellent identification tool!  The photos and regional checklists make identifying your butterflies and moths relatively painless.

Bug Guide

Bug Guide

I know I rave about BugGuide, but it’s such an amazing resource!  While I think this site is less helpful to scientists than some of the others, I think it’s still well worth the effort to submit your photos because it is an invaluable resource for people who wish to identify North American insects.  If you know what species you’ve got, you can simply add your photos to the site with information about when and where you found the bug in the photo(s) and it will be added to the database.  If you don’t know what your bug is…  Submit your photo as an ID Request!  Someone might be able to tell you what it is and then add it to the appropriate species page.  Bug Guide is a great website, made possible in part by people like you.

Project Noah

Project Noah

I’ve mentioned Project Noah in another Friday 5 post, but I think it’s a great organization  and I want to point it out again.  Like Butterflies and Moths of North America, users submit photos of things they’ve seen to the site with information about the sighting.  Like Bug Guide, you can request identifications or submit your own identification if you know what you’ve photographed.  Unlike either website, Project Noah both A) deals with all biological organisms (plants AND animals) and B) has a smart phone interface that is pretty fun.  Snap a photo of an insect (or plant or other animal) with your smart phone and upload it to Project Noah and you won’t even need a computer to participate!  There are some really magnificent photos on the site (my favorite is this fruit bat), plus you can see the diversity of plants and animals that live in your area with location tools.  I encourage everyone to check it out!

Encyclopedia of Life

Encyclopedia of Life

The goal of the Encyclopedia of Life is to document all life on the planet, gathering together information from journals, databases, collections, and the public and sharing it with everyone online in an accessible way.  You can help EOL in several ways.  One is to create an account on the EOL website and send in photos, articles, etc for inclusion in the archives.  Even easier, you can contribute photos to EOL directly from Flickr (click the link for instructions!).  Public participation is essential for EOL to continue making progress toward its lofty goals, so help make it the astounding resource it has the potential to be by contributing photos!

Your photos and sightings are incredibly valuable to all of the citizen science projects listed above.  If you’re taking insect photos and are happy to share them with others already, why not make the world a better place by contributing images to one of these great organizations?  With little effort, you can help both scientists and the public can learn about, identify, and document the insects of the world.  There’s a lot of them, so let’s get photographing!


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Friday 5: Hipsta-Bugs!

Hi, my name is Dragonfly Woman and I’m addicted to the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone.  I take WAY too many photos with it (especially considering how many photos I take with my other, superior cameras!), but I can’t seem to stop.  I love the little square images that crop up after the phone takes the shot, photos that remind me of my very first camera.  I got it in 1984 or so, a 126 film camera that my six-year-old self was insanely happy to have.  I’ve got hundreds of the little square photos that camera produced hidden away in a closet.   The Hipstamatic photos make me happy because they remind me of being a kid.   But Hipstamatic does more than just make square prints!  I am in love with the black and white “films” which give a lovely old, nostalgic look to everything I shoot.  I even shoot bugs from time to time!  I don’t have the little “macro” lens attachment, so they are invariably a little blurry and a little less than perfect.  But the photos are so fun!  For example, I found this katydid recently.  It landed on the garage of one of my best friends in Missouri one night:



Know why I took this photo?  Because my husband told me he didn’t know what a katydid looked like when I mentioned I was looking at one as I talked to him on the phone.  I could have taken a plain old boring katydid photo, but where’s the fun in that?  Hipsta-katydid looks much more exciting!  The dramatic shadows make it look like something out of film noire rather than a common green insect sitting on a garage door.

But then this gorgeous beast appeared a few minutes later, just when I was getting ready to go back inside for the night:



I love the antlions with the flat, patterned wings like this!  They’re so beautiful.  But the Hipstamatic makes them look a little eerie, a little ephemeral, like they’re not quite there.  How can you not love hipsta-antlion?

Then there were the army ants I found in Missouri when I went to BugShot 2011:

Army ant raid

Army ant raid

I found these while wandering around alone in the dark (as I am wont to do) and took the photo by the light of my headlamp.  You can barely even see the line of hispta-ants running between the upper left and lower right corners of the photo, but I love it!  It reminds me of the fabulous ants I found and the blur where the ants should be indicates how fast they were running.  The army ant line stretched on and on across an entire road and into the grass on either side, but I just got this one little section – a tiny little snapshot of nighttime ant action that I felt lucky to have stumbled upon.

When I was at my outreach event in Phoenix last weekend, I couldn’t resist snapping the following shot of an angry, hungry giant water bug:

Giant water bug

Giant water bug

Just looking at this photo makes my heart jump a little.  The bug was hungry enough that he was none too pleased about being handled and was actively trying to bite me.  Ah Beelzebug!  You are one angry little guy!  Handsome as all get out, but very angry.  And hispta-Beelzebug looks awesome and frightful at the same time.

I had a bunch of preserved insects with me that night too.  There’s something so great about a vintage looking photo of a bunch of vials and insect specimens in plastic boxes:

Aquatic insect display

Aquatic insect display

If the “date” stamp wasn’t at the bottom of the photo, it would have a sort of Victorian, cabinet of curiosities look.  Or you can imagine this in the office of a 19th century entomologist at the British Museum.   Hipsta-bug display works because it looks so old, making the dead bugs appear as ghostly representations of their former living selves.  Makes me want to develop a steampunk entomologist outfit so I can sit alongside my bugs and fit right into the photo.

On second thought, perhaps I am not ashamed of my Histamatic addiction after all.  Maybe I don’t even want to be cured!  After all, isn’t having a little fun a good thing?  It was a pleasure snapping these photos, and I will remember the moments I took them forever.  I think maybe I’ll keep at it and see what I come up with next…


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