DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

insects

Aug 20 2010

ShareReads: Bugged Out

by Jimmy L

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

About a month ago, I was poking around my crawlspace when I noticed a lot of dark crickets jumping around like popcorn as soon as I got close to them.  Wondering whether they were harmful, I looked online and found out that they were called camel crickets (but also sometimes known as cave crickets), and completely harmless.  They like dark damp spaces, eat detritus, and are completely silent, so you won’t hear them chirping at night.   The little things looked so cute, the 5 year old in me thought about raising a few in a cage so I could observe them.

Then last week, I was in a used bookstore and I came upon a book through pure luck— Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs by Sue Hubbell.  A cursory glance through the contents revealed that each chapter is about a different insect, from much loved ones like the butterfly and the ladybug, to ones we consider pests like gnats, silverfish, and flies.  I put it in my huge pile of finds that day and took it to the checkout counter.  It wasn’t until later that I saw the title of the last chapter—Order Orthoptera: Camel Crickets.

I’m still reading this book, slowly, savoring it chapter by chapter, and I’m reading it impulsively rather than in order, skipping to katydids or dragonflies just because I suddenly feel like it.  But, obviously, I started with the camel crickets.  I found out so much more about these little critters than Wikipedia could ever be able to tell me.  Hubbell writes from a personal angle; she is not a bug expert, just someone who’s very enthusiastic about them, so I was able to get that same sense of excitement and discovery that she did.  She presents you with amazing tidbits (did you know that the daddy longlegs uses his legs as a kind of cage to trap other insects underneath him as he feeds?) that never feel dry.  Her approach with each insect is different.  With the ladybug, she followed ladybug harvesters (because they sell them now for people who want them in their gardens), for the daddy longlegs and camel crickets, she raised some of her own in cages and observed them, for the butterfly, she followed a few taxonomists, helping them count the different varieties in the Beartooth Mountains.

Sue Hubbell has written many other books, some of which are available at the library.  A Book of Bees… And How to Keep Them is about beekeeping, A Country Year: Living the Questions is a book about living and exploring nature, and Waiting for Aphrodite: Journeys into the Time Before Bones is a book about invertebrates.  I’m excited to check these books out too, once I finish with this one.

Have you read any books lately that make you feel like a giddy 5 year old?  Any books that satisfy an odd curiosity?  Please share in the comments.

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Jul 31 2009

Bugs and Books

by Lesley B

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.

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