At a safety training session this week, our speaker had a great story. He said he was driving on I-285 when he felt Something Big crawling up his leg. He was in the fast lane, so he trapped the big thing with his hand, keeping it from climbing any higher. He managed to ease over to the roadside where he faced a dilemma – to strip or not to strip? Fortunately for the passing drivers he managed to trap the Something Big with one hand and force it out of his pants with the other, whereupon he discovered he’d had a large Dung Beetle moving up his leg.
This is a great story only because it didn’t happen to me. But let’s say you’ve trapped an interesting bug in your pants and you’d like to identify your new friend. One place to start might be What’s That Bug? Two Los Angeles artists identify bugs from photos and letters sent in by the terrified and the fascinated. They don’t pretend to be bug experts but I still find it helpful, especially for identifying bugs commonly found around the house. If the WTB folks are stumped they often refer you to Bugguide.net, an amateur naturalist site created by Georgia resident Troy Bartlett and now hosted by Iowa State University. Bugguide is more formally organized than WTB, with many useful links and books and some great photos (click on the Dung Beetle link above).
If you are interested in learning more about these creatures (not a bad idea since they seriously outnumber us) you might enjoy one of the following titles:
An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles by Arthur V. Evans and Charles L. Bellamy
Broadsides from the other orders: a book of bugs, by Sue Hubbell
The Superorganism: the beauty, elegance and strangeness of insect societies by Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson
Of course the library also has insect guides that you can check out and take home. I generally recommend the take-home method as you may disturb other library patrons if you bring in Something Big in a jar.