Category Archives: Update


Surprise surprise, right?

The caterpillar lab has been humming along. My advisor was away for a month to explore the southwest and collect a few hundred caterpillars for his next field guide… meanwhile a few lab members and I kept things running around here. Collaborators began sending me more and more material (I currently have about two hundred caterpillars in my care). I even started some real data-gathering experiments!

My advisor returned this past weekend and the lab has been in a frenzy. Jars of caterpillars and bags of plants everywhere. Boiling specimens and trying to not forget about them lest they fry on the hot plate. Urgent requests to run outside and grab a branch of the oak tree out behind the building (or the milkweed down the street, or the birch by the pond, or the alder at the stop sign…).

Here is the lab table right now, actually looking remarkably clean and organized. There are several boxes of caterpillar vials on nearby shelves:


And my caterpillar station:


It is amazing how easy it is to get caught up in the daily grind of feeding caterpillars, cleaning out poop, setting up freshly hatched first instar caterpillars, taking photos, collecting plants, etc. Sometimes I nearly forget exactly what I am supposed to be doing with these guys – experiments! Once I get some pictures organized I’ll let you know what I’m up to… it’s about defensive behaviors. So far so good, and hopefully I’ll have enough data to present something interesting at the Entomological Society of America conference in November. Fingers crossed.


Life and priorities…

I have so many fun/wonderful/buggy things to share, but it’s hard to find time for blogging right now. I’ve stopped sewing. I haven’t been on twitter in who-knows-how-long. I’ve cut back on crossfit. I’ve stopped cooking elaborate meals every day. Jonny has been on a month-long road trip. I’m not getting enough sleep.

General exam for my PhD is coming up in December – ahhhhh!!!! All time is going toward studying, and teaching, and trying to get through normal grad student duties (lectures, seminars, gossiping with labmates, etc).

I probably won’t get back into blogging regularly until around/after the holidays.

See you then!

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.


Wanted: naughty arthropod photography

My friend and I have a brilliant collaboration in progress: he writes dirty limericks about the sexual habits (courtship, mating itself, sexual characteristics and habits, etc) of insect and other arthropods, and I illustrate them. So far they are line drawings, I am debating on how to color them. We are hoping to turn our venture into a blog, and eventually a book.

One of the problems we are running into, however, is source material for my drawings. We would love to tackle things like the bizarre foot nibbling courtship of vinegaroons, but I probably will not get photos of that myself.

My illustrations are all free-hand, so nothing would be a trace or direct copy, but I do not want anyone feeling put-off if they can tell I used their image as a reference. I will be contacting some photographers directly. But if YOU have photos of insects doing what they do best and would like to share, please let me know! We would especially appreciate any little stories or descriptions of what is happening, to inspire us. I know there is a whole world of amazing insect sex out there, and we would love to explore it. You will be credited for your contribution unless you wish to remain anonymous.

Here is an example of some twisted up craneflies mating.

You can send me an email through the contact page of my blog. Thanks!

Crossfit for Hope

A quick deviation from caterpillar news (I have so many updates and pictures to share!), to ask you to think of the children.

I’m doing a Crossfit event this Saturday, the whole Crossfit community (gyms all across the US and throughout the world) is participating.

It’s called Crossfit for Hope, and you can sponsor an athlete – all donations go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. You can do a flat donation or give a certain amount per rep that the athlete completes.

It’s going to be brutal! This is the workout:
Three rounds of (one minute each, as many reps as you can):
75 pound Power snatch
Box jump, 24″ box
75 pound Thruster
Chest to bar Pull-ups

I think the weight might be lowered for women, not sure though – either way, I can do it. But it will be a long 15 minutes.

If you’d like to sponsor me you can click HERE.

You can also participate if you want! Most Crossfit gyms will have this workout be open to the public, as long as you can demonstrate you are capable of the movements. If you are around the UConn area, you can join us at Crossfit Storrs. Even if you cannot do the movements exactly as described (like if you can’t do a chest to bar pull-up), you might be able to modify them, like using a stretch band to assist with pull ups.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled lepidopterous entertainment.


Rascal says “Ok, we’re all packed and ready to go!”

I’m moving to a new apartment this weekend. It is closer to campus, closer to my boyfriend and most of my friends, and is a stone’s throw away from a Mexican restaurant. Of course, that is not very good for my stomach (I’ve been eating paleo for about 9 months now), but a margarita now and then won’t hurt too much.

I am excited because it is fully carpeted, which will give Rascal more room to run around. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll also find time to do everything else that needs to be done in my life. Sewing machine is in a repair shop, but I should be back in sewing action once I’m moved in. Caterpillars in the lab are growing fast. I’m starting to seriously black-light for female moths. And maybe, eventually sometime in my life I will get something published. Woo!

Thank you!

Thank you to the Connecticut Entomological Society for asking me to speak at their meeting last week, it was a lot of fun! I always get inspired when I talk about my work and get to show off pictures of my caterpillars. I adjusted my talk a lot from the last time I gave it, and added more fun stories. I hope everyone enjoyed it.

I would also like to thank all of my lab members (fan club?) for staying late on a Friday night to see my talk. Of course, they were tempted with beer and pool at the bar after the talk, but still! And a thank you to my crossfit coach who came with her friend, and got to learn a bit more about what I do.

Things have been very busy around here, I have started getting eggs and caterpillars! I have a lot of material to talk about, but I will be away for the weekend (going to watch the Crossfit Northeast Regional competition), so I will have plenty of posts to write up next week.

I currently have a luna moth (Actias luna) clinging to my ceiling… it was put there by my labmate Louis (can’t call him a student anymore, he graduated!) this morning and I didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me just now. Feeling a little silly.

Technical difficulties, of course

My laptop decided that last week was a great time to get a virus. I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of that for a while (looking to buy a new laptop), and for now I’m stuck on a little hand-me-down netbook. It’s a bit slow for using WordPress, but I’ll try to add a few things.

I have all my files backed up, including pictures from my trip to Canada. I’m keeping that harddrive safe in my office so I’ll get those pics and write about the creatures we found soon.

Canada, eh?

I’m driving up north to see some friends of mine for spring break and wander around McGill, reminiscing about college days. In between shopping for shoes and eating poutine we will be exploring the arboretum, so I’ll surely have some insect stories to share when I return (my friends are entomologists, what do you expect?).

BugShot 2012

I just sent in my application for BugShot 2012, an insect photography training course… I have heard a lot of great things about the course and the Archbold research station. Check it out!

Alex Wild is the fabulous photographer/scientist of Myrmecos, a blog which has caused me to really warm up to ants (even though they’re still annoying when they get in my kitchen).

Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

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