Friday 5: Holiday Shopping for That Special Entomologist on Your List

The holidays are approaching and everyone is about to make a mad dash to shopping centers to do Christmas shopping.  Me, I do most of my shopping online or make handmade gifts just so I don’t have to brave the malls and other stores before Christmas.  (I hate, hate, hate malls in general, but when you have to walk half a mile across the parking lot only to face panicked, stressed hoards of people…  No thank you!)  For those of you with that special entomologist or bug lover in your life, I thought I might provide a handy-dandy holiday shopping guide for the hexapod inclined people of the world.  Behold, the Entomologist Christmas List!  Because it’s Friday, there will be the standard Friday 5 appropriate 5 categories, but there are a few choices within each category as an extra special holiday treat.  Feel free to skip right to the section that interests you as this will be a long post!

The Fashionable Entomologist

In my experience, no self-respecting entomologist will ever say no to a great bug t-shirt, so if you have a tight budget you can’t go wrong.  I personally recommend the Moth Collector tee from Threadless:

moth collector

It’s modern, hip, and isn’t white, all points in its favor as far as I’m concerned.  I have one of these shirts and can say from personal experience that the Threadless shirts are made of lovely, soft fabric and they’re great to wear.  I am also very fond of The Bug Geek’s line of tees:


I love Crystal’s acorn weevil photo and it makes a marvelous graphic for a shirt!  You’ll also be supporting a great ento grad student/insect blogger, and if you’ve ever been a grad student you know how tight cash can be.  Every little bit helps!  And don’t forget to accessorize!  Those with a little more to spend might consider this awesome, spectacularly handmade silver mayfly belt buckle:

mayfly belt buckle

It’s hip, rugged – perfect for the manly, outdoorsy entomologist.  Belt buckles are cool.  But maybe your entomologist leans more toward the girly side…  Try these fabulous handmade weevil hair combs:

weevil comb

I’ve got a set of dung beetle bobby pins made by the same woman.  I LOVE them!  Highly recommended.  And, if you’re like me, you can wear your enormous insect belt buckle AND your delicate little dung beetle hairpins on the same day and really rock the insect attire!

The Well Decorated Home

You’ll often find a lot of bug decor in the homes of entomologists, so if your special bug fanatic is one of them, bug decor can make a good gift.  Did you know that Alex Wild is having a sale on select photographs for the holidays?  The sale photos are incredibly priced, and might make his work accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it.  My second favorite of Alex’s photos (right behind the whirligig beetle), this one…

honeypot ants

…is part of the sale.  Woo!  Imagine the joy your entomologist will get from seeing one of Alex’s photographic beauties on their wall every day!  But maybe your bug geek is into more graphic representations of insects.  In that case, you really can’t go wrong with a Thomas Shahan original insect woodcut, such as his gorgeous tiger beetle print:

tiger beetle woodcut

If you read my blog, you likely know Thomas’ name as one of the Bug Shot instructors and a phenomenal photographer of jumping spiders.  He is equally skilled as a woodcut artist and does beautiful work.  But buying art for other people can be difficult if you don’t know that person REALLY well.  Or maybe your recipient simply has more whimsical or three-dimensional tastes.  I love these little nickel wall dragonflies:

dragonflies on the wall

They remind me of a dragonfly swarm, so I might be a little biased.  :)  Still, how awesome would it be to have a set of these swirled across a wall?  If your special entomologist is still a kid at heart, you can go even more low brow and fun and gift this fun firefly in a jar:

electronic firefly

I can’t tell you how much happiness my butterfly in a jar has given me.  I keep it on my computer desk so that I can tap the lid and watch the little animatronic butterfly flutter around inside the jar more often than I like to admit.  It’s a great distraction when you need a quick mental break from work.  And think of how great that little firefly would look in a dark room!  This is a great little toy that lets you relive your childhood without waking up to a jar of dead fireflies in the morning.  Plus, it’s currently on sale!

The Photography Addict

A lot of entomologists gravitate toward photography eventually, so if you’re able to afford it (or you suddenly win the lottery), I’ve got a few suggestions.  The Canon MP-E 65 lens is an obvious choice:

Canon MP-E

Several of the better known insect bloggers (Alex Wild and Ted MacRae, for example) have this lens and use it very effectively.  It’s not supposed to be an easy lens to work with and might require a bit of practice, though most insect photographers won’t mind seeking out more photo taking opportunities to build their skills.  But, the MP-E lens is very expensive and requires that your recipient already have a Canon DSLR camera body.  Canon also offers a line of great point and shoot cameras that will still let you take some awesome shots, the PowerShot G series:

Canon G15

I have a Canon PowerShot G11 myself, which is two models out of date now, but I love it.  The G11 and the G12 both feature a swiveling screen that allows you to see what you’re photographing from all sorts of awkward angles, something that you’ll find yourself doing now and again if you like shooting insects.  The newest model, the G15 pictured above, is great but it unfortunately does not have the swivel screen.  Sigh…  However, the G12 is likely to start going on sale here pretty soon.  If you see one for less than $400 new, you’re getting a good deal!

I am a Nikon gal myself (though I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to give me a Canon body and/or an MP-E lens!), so I am fond of the Nikon R1 flash system:

R1 flashes

While most people will tell you that Canon is the way to go if you want to photograph insects (largely due to that one lens), the Nikon macro flash system will make your Canon loving photo buddies swoon.  It comes with two wireless flashes that you can position anywhere you’d like along the ring – or remove entirely from the camera as needed without any special adapters or cables.  It really is a great flash system, and one reason I love my Nikon gear.

It can be really fun to photograph insects in whiteboxes from time to time!  If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly photo gift, there are several commercially available whitebox options, such as this one:


There are cheaper models than this on the market (like the one I own), or you can make your own whitebox out of a cardboard box and printer paper for far less than this swanky model, but this one looks really nice.   My whitebox also has the whole front of the box open so the insects readily escape if I don’t pay close attention.  The whitebox above looks like a great way to both contain the insects you want to photograph AND provide a crisp white background that will highlight even the most drab insect’s beauty.

The Bookworm

You probably all know that I’m a huge book lover.  Seriously, I have 9 large bookcases FULL of books, plus a Kindle filled with hundreds more.  It would feel wrong if I didn’t mention at least a few books on my holiday gift guide!  You really can’t go wrong with field guides.  Just pick a topic that the special entomologist in your life loves and look for something appropriate for the region where he/she lives.  I, for example, would love for someone to send me either the Field Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America or Damselflies of the Northeast for Christmas.  They’re great books!

Coffee table books can make fun gifts too.  I recently discovered a photography book called A World in One Cubic Foot that I’m very excited about.  It features photos of organisms that were found in a one cubic foot area over a 24 hour period – and the results are AMAZING!  I added it to my personal Christmas wishlist.  Anything by Piotr Naskrecki is well worth the money as well.  I especially love The Smaller Majority, though Relics is also a superb book.

For the right kind of person, vintage entomology texts can make great gifts!  Find a great used bookstore in your area and take a look in the insect section and you might walk away with an old gem of an insect book.  I especially love the ones that have lots of engravings in them.  Every now and again you’ll come across something really special, like a book with hand printed engravings.  These can be very expensive if the bookstore knows what it’s doing or specializes in old/rare books, but library book sales, rummage sales, thrift stores, and garage sales can sometimes yield very cheap, very interesting finds!  Plus, it’s fun to hunt for something and then find the perfect gift lurking under a pile of old toys.

The Adventurous gourmand

Last, but not least, I give you insect gift ideas for foodies!  There are tons of edible insects out there, if you know where to look.  Thai import shops can have some interesting options, such as this giant water bug chile dipping sauce:

Water bug dipping sauce

Honestly, I’m not even sure what you’d use this sauce for, but perhaps you can consider that part of the adventure!  The same website offers several other edible insects options, including bags of freeze-dried giant water bugs, centipede infused whiskey (though I really don’t recommend trying that – centipedes are venomous, and the bottle looks more like it belongs in a natural history museum than your kitchen…), and chocolate covered silkworm pupae.  Most of the imported edible insects have been dead for quite some time, however.  Let’s say you want to make chocolate chirp cookies for an insect loving giftee and you need some of these:


Head to your local pet store and buy bulk crickets there!  They’re in the reptile section usually, or sometimes with the fish.  You can also order them online from places like Fluker Farms.  The insects raised to be fed to reptiles and amphibians are generally safe for human consumption, though you might want to ask for more details about how the crickets or mealworms are reared just to be sure.

Once you have your delicious edible insects and/or insect infused beverages, you’re going to need something to serve them on/in.  I absolutely love Catherine Reece’s whimsical insect pottery, particularly her line of cockroaches:

cockroach mug

I drink about 10 cups of tea a day out of a mug just like this one!  Who wouldn’t want to drink tea out of a mug with cockroaches on it?  I am also very fond of these insect dishes by Laura Zindel Design:

insect dinnerware

The set claims to have a walking stick, a water strider, and a ladybug, though that’s actually a water measurer, a water strider, and a ladybug.  TWO aquatic insect plate options!  They’re just fabulous.  Expensive, so I am unlikely to ever have any of these beauties, but they sure are cool!

There are so many great options for the insect lover in your life!  I high recommend places like Etsy for cool, funky handmade insect things and check out the websites of your favorite insect photographers for awesome gift ideas.  Anthropologie often has some surprising insect finds, as do import shops.  People put insects on just about anything these days, so you’re bound to find something for the insect obsessed people on your list if you just look around.  I hope this list will at least get you started and give you a few ideas!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t take a single one of these photos.)


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth