Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bug Collecting

Yesterday, Kathie of Sycamore Canyon posted a piece on a visit from Doug Taron, the bug guy. In one segment they were stretching a sheet at the mouth of a wash and back lighting it to attract insects. This reminded me of a pleasant/not too pleasant memory from my early high school days. My dad was an entomologist ( a bug guy). He worked for a variety of private Pest Control Companies after graduation from college and later became a Plant Quarantine Inspector for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. I was fifteen years old and was taking Biology in high school. I chose an insect collection as my project for the semester. But, as usual, I put off collecting any insects until the last minute. By the last minute I mean the day before the project was due. I had several glass jars with lids with a screen in the bottom covering a piece of cotton soaked in alcohol I used as killing jars. I had a cigar box for a presentation case. A variety of live insects still moved around in the killing jars when my dad came in from work. Of course part of the project was to identify and classify the insects I collected. My dad saw what I was doing, and since it was in his scientific field, he asked me about the project and when it was due. When I told him tomorrow morning, he had some choice words of wisdom for me, but he did formulate a plan. I gave him the paper with the criteria for the project and he suggested we set up a sheet in the carport in front of the light after dark. He also got out some carbon tetrachloride to use in the killing jars. It was much faster than the alcohol I was using. We were successful in collecting the required number of insects from the various families and my dad identified them from memory and provided me with the scientific names needed to properly present them. We worked late into the night mounting our specimens, and carefully printing the correct name on the labels. After telling me what would happen to me if I ever waited that long to do any school project, he went to bed. I did too. I was relieved to have the project completed in spite of my procrastination. I learned when I arrived at school that I was not the only one who had waited until the final hour to begin. You could hear the pinned beetles and other large insects scratching around in several of the presentation boxes lining the table in front of the class. Mine however received very high marks. My dad died of Leukemia the day before my sixteenth birthday, and I'm not sure if I ever thanked him properly for pulling my feet out of the fire. It was a life saver to have a highly trained bug man for a father when insect collections were needed in a hurry. Thank you Kathie and Doug for reminding me. I was later involved in several critical school projects with my girls. I was making up for time I wasted in high school. I could hardly wait until they got home from school to find out what grade "we" made on the project.

The squeaking wheel doesn't always get the grease. Sometimes it gets replaced. - Vic Gold