A brief break from research

Posted: July 7, 2013

Bug Camp provides a nice break from the daily slog (or slug).
Maggie or monarch?

Maggie or monarch?

This time of year, field or greenhouse experiments usually keep us pretty busy – in my case the days settle into a rhythm of checking slug traps, opening pitfall traps, collecting pitfall traps, recording plant damage, collecting slugs, collecting beetles, and starting all over again, interspersed with the endless ritual of checking the weather. (Yup, still 40% chance of thunderstorms – how is it that central PA is in a perpetual state of 40% chance of thunderstorms?) But yesterday I had the opportunity to step outside of my routine and share in some bug fun with the younger set.

Ian and I spent much of the day hanging out with about 20 youngsters at Penn State’s annual Bug Camp for Kids, a rowdy and bug-crazed group of 8- to 11-year olds. In the morning, the campers checked on a terrarium experiment they had started on Monday, observing that the lady beetles they introduced had chowed down on some aphids infesting their wheat plants. This led into a discussion of all the beneficial roles that insects play in our lives, as predators of crop pests, as pollinators, and as decomposers. It also led into some wacky videos and discussions of ‘monster bug wars’, daddy longlegs and their venom (or lack thereof), what happens to insect brains during metamorphosis, and all kinds of other intriguing topics.

In the afternoon, I joined the campers on a field-trip to Tudek Park and the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden to learn about butterflies and native bees. The Centre County Master Gardeners led the kids through some great activities to help them think about what an insect needs to survive in the world, and to learn about the Monarch butterfly migration. But as usual, the campers were most excited about running through the fields with their insect nets, usually in hot pursuit of a butterfly. If I could bottle this unbridled insect enthusiasm and keep it in my desk drawer I would. Seeing insects through their eyes reminds me why I got into science and leaves me excited to get back to it. Now if it could only stop raining…

-  Maggie Douglas (27 June 2013)

maggie's weather

A rough stretch of PA weather.