I’m full of sympathy for parents of school-aged children these days. But I had my own problems when my daughters were growing up. There was one harbinger of spring that I came to dread. Bug collecting.
These projects were meant to educate kids, but I needed to be enlightened, too. And, because my daughters were far apart in age, there were lots of things I had to keep relearning.
I never had to collect bugs when I was growing up. The only thing I learned in school about bugs was that a person who studies them is called an entomologist.
I learned that in second grade. It wasn’t because we were studying insects, but because I sat by Jane Eden, and her daddy was an entomologist.
I’ve always called creepy, crawly creatures just what they are — bugs. But scientists stubbornly insist that the critters are insects. To make matters worse, individual insects have names I’d never heard of and have no idea how to spell or pronounce them.
For instance, over the years I thought I was swatting flies. Turns out, that’s not what they were at all. They’re Diptera. To make matters worse, there are approximately 120,000 types of Diptera.
They might be houseflies. On the other hand, they could be blowflies, deer flies, fruit flies, horse flies, green bottle flies, crane flies, midges or botflies. And, of course, butterflies aren’t even flies. They’re Lepidoptera.
If you thought you were catching June Bugs when you were a child, boy, were you mistaken. You were catching Scarabaeidae. June Bugs are actually beetles, which, as anybody should know, means “biter.” That’s not their real name. They’re in the order Coleoptera.
There’s a network out there with vast amounts of information being exchanged among bugs. This may sound farfetched, but I found that one hint of children hunting insects is all it takes for all flying or crawling vermin to disappear. At the first mention of bug collecting, my house looked like the home of the Orkin man. Not a critter in sight.
Other, strange things seem to happen as soon as the science teacher assigns the task of capturing insects. First, there’s a cold snap. There might be record lows. And of course, drought-like conditions often occur.
I wondered why roly-polies were still hanging around. Turned out there was a simple explanation. Roly-polies aren’t insects. They don’t have three body parts.
I learned over the years that the best way to kill an insect is to freeze it. The thing is, I hate to watch a bunch of insects die in my freezer. And, when my daughters were in the midst of amassing bugs, I had to be careful not to take just anything out of the freezer and dump it into a casserole. I was constantly checking to make sure it wasn’t a Diptera or a Coleoptera.
But, it doesn’t seem to matter how much I’ve learned and relearned. To me, an insect by any other name is still a bug.
Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.