Because I’m an Entomology graduate student, meeting people is often like this:
Me: Hi, my name is Emily.
New friend: Hi Emily, what do you do?
Me: I study insects.
New friend: OMG, that’s so cool. So, I have these ____ on my _____ . Do you know what they are?**
(**I just realized doctors probably have similar conversations, but the blanks are filled with stuff I can’t fathom.)
These interactions usually leave me feeling like an imposter, because there are too many insects in the world, too many in our backyards even, to know them all. Plus, observation is the step of science I’m not so good at; usually I’m thinking about World War II or that great rice pudding I had the other night instead of what’s under my feet.
Nowadays, I try to be more observant when it comes to insects. My best bug hunting happens during morning jogs, especially this time of year when cold-blooded animals are basking on the pavement to avoid the guillotine of winter. Last week, I stopped running to stare at the strangest thing: a fat, milky beetle grub scooting across the pavement on its back. I thought maybe it was infested with a parasite, but the grub looked healthy, and what parasite would benefit from a beetle doing what looked like an adorable dance move, or a very uncomfortable yet inventive leg of a relay race?