Monthly Archives: August 2012

And a new adventure begins

Classes started this week – how did that happen so fast??

I am the TA for general entomology. Somehow ended up with four students from field entomology (you mean I didn’t scare them off?), which means they already know my tricks, which means I’ve got to come up with some new material (lectures, quizzes, jokes) this semester. And I have to find a way to reel myself in and listen to the professor (my advisor) and do things his way. That will probably be the most challenging part!

So far it seems like we have a really great group of motivated students – I’m excited to spend more time with them and help them with their collections. We won’t be doing as much collecting during class time as field entomology, but we will take some fun trips.

I have a flickr page for the class that I started here, if you’d like to see the sorts of things we catch around CT.

This is the craziest thing we saw on our walk today- an ambush bug eating a bee. But what are all the flies doing? Any idea on ID or what the swarming is about?

Word of the day: laterostigmatal

(The word of the day is taken from the Torre Bueno Glossary of Entomology… usually related to lepidoptera in some way).
laterostigmatal, of or pertaining to the side, immediately above the spiracle
I opened up the book and this was on the first page I saw. At first it seems strange to have such a specific word for that area, but I can see how it would be useful in describing features isolated to that part of the body, like a stripe or a spot. Heck, I might use this in a species description I am working on, since the caterpillar has several lateral stripes, one of which goes right above the spiracles.

The spiracles are openings through which insects breathe, connected directly to tracheae which bring oxygen to the rest of the body. They are usually easy to find on caterpillars – they are present on the first thoracic segment, and abdominal segments A1 through A8. Some may be hidden by hairs or wrinkles on the body, but they are always there.

This photo, by D. Wagner, is of a caterpillar in the family Sphingidae. The spiracles are orange dots, and there are white stripes in what could be called the laterostigmatal area.

It’s over

Earlier this week I submitted the final grades for field entomology, and yesterday I got paid – hurray! Part of me is sad the experience is over, but I’m excited for the fall semester to start.

Being in charge of a class myself presented many challenges, but was incredibly rewarding. Their final exams included some really thoughtful answers, and their insect collections were, for the most part, quite impressive. I am grateful for the cooperation and enthusiasm of all the students in the class. I will be seeing a few of them next week when general entomology starts, I’m glad I didn’t scare them off!

Just look at all those troublemakers.

One week isn’t really enough time to decompress and then prepare for another semester of teaching… but I guess that’s what I have to do. I’m not taking any classes but will be going to a few seminars and meetings, working on a couple projects, TAing the general entomology lab, doing research, and studying for my general exam. It’s a good thing I like being busy.

Brigette turns 24

Starting to feel like a grown-up!

I think I’m going to cook myself some plantain pancakes for breakfast, smothered in maple syrup. Sort of paleo.

And then go into the lab to feed my caterpillars, and help my students with their collections. Maybe with the help of a glass of wine.


Entomophagy – Insect Banquet!

This is the last week of field entomology – I can’t believe how fast it has gone by!

You can check out my curriculum at the course website (though the materials are password protected). Just about everything was done from scratch. I used some handouts used in previous entomology classes to help me organize my lectures, but otherwise I’ve been on my own. Writing lectures, organizing field trips, driving the field trip van, gathering supplies, creating assignments and quizzes, grading, answering questions, and staying in the lab many hours past class time. I even took the students on a night collecting trip outside of class, which was a blast. These are all reasons why my blog has been ignored – I was warned by the grad student who taught it last year that it would take over my life, and it has. Then I have a week off, then general entomology starts! (I’ll be the TA).

Today I decided to have an insect banquet, to start the last week out with a bang (it ends with the final exam on Friday, when their collections are also due).

Some insects I purchased alive from a pet store, and some I purchased from Dave Gracer of SmallStock Foods. He was able to provide me with a great assortment of insects with very different flavors.

I will save the “reasons why you should eat insects” post for another time – here I will give my reviews of the dishes I made, and how my students reacted! (they got extra credit points for trying every dish, which greatly enhanced enthusiasm)

Chewy Cricket bar (apple cinnamon flavor)
100 crickets (frozen, boiled, baked, ground into cricket flour), dates, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds, apples, maple syrup, cinnamon.

Delicious dessert. Great way to introduce the concept for the very squeamish. Everyone loved these.

Waxworm hummus
50 waxworm caterpillars (toasted on a hot pan, then ground in a food processor), plain hummus.

Tasty and nutty. Everyone liked this one too. I think it tasted better than the plain hummus.

Periodical cicadas – bacon and chocolate
Periodical cicadas wrapped in bacon and baked in the oven, some baked plain and then dipped in chocolate.

The bacon ones were a yummy combination. The chocolate was so-so.

Ugandan Katydids – Mexican “Chapulines” style
Mexican “chapulines” are grasshoppers cooked in garlic and lime juice. I did that with the katydids.

Tasty, could be crunchier though. Good snack. Hit-or-miss with the students, some didn’t like them, some wanted more.

Stuffed mushrooms with Texas katydids
Texas katydids, green onions, coconut oil, Thai seasoning.

The toughest to eat, mentally. The big legs got stuck in people’s teeth. The bites were too big and you had to chew for too long. The taste wasn’t bad, but the texture got to a lot of people.

Giant Water Bugs
Giant Water Bugs from Thailand, boiled. Thoracic meat eaten with apple slices.

The most daring dish, cooked right here in the lab. Took some work to get the insects open and scoop out the meat. The flavor was very strong – not “I want to spit it out” terrible, but so bizarre none of us knew how to describe it. Buttery, fishy, salty… I can imagine it being tasty in a dish, not so much on its own though.

Here are student reactions before and after trying the water bug:

For more photos of the cooking process and student reactions, check out our class Flickr page!



Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.