Bug Night #9: It’s as plain as the invertebrate on your face

“But see, the brush-like labrum is clearly visible so it is definitely a Philopotamidae,” said the male White Coat.

It was clear that the female White Coat was not convinced. “I can’t see any labrum,” she said but there was something there—it could have been detritus on the bug or her poor eyesight. Maybe it was the reflection of her own eyelashes projecting onto the organism. She should have known better. He was always right, especially when it came to caddisflies.

“A little lubrication goes a long way,” he said as he squirted denatured alcohol onto the bug to relax its morphology, “See how the labrum is broad and flat and resembles a vacuum cleaner attachment?”

“No,” she said. She seemed tired and closed off to the head capsule details. The entire roomful of Bug Night-ers kept their heads down and tried to look busy.

“But,” he began and then stopped himself. He could see where this was going. She wanted to use the Wiggins textbook and possibly the new Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program Digital Image Library™. Who could blame her, after all? It was a teaching moment for everyone. Her fingers twitched over the smooth, kelly green book cover and she looked over her shoulder at the notebook computer opened to the macroinvertebrates images.

“Nothing’s ever easy is it?” he said, “Let’s start again: the labrum is broad and flat, resembling a vacuum cleaner attachment and it may be withdrawn when preserved…”

The doors open at six on Wednesday. Please click rapidly on the windows with your tarsi should you arrive a bit late. We are on a serious roll thanks to you. We can’t wait to see you there.


Bug Night #8: Don’t just sit (or stand) there—ID something

“Wow, look at the crazy patterns of exoskeleton on my pedipalp,” said the Bug Night-er. She could not be blamed for a moment of distraction looking at her own morphology through the stereoscope. The one-hour warning had been issued by a White Coat and she had already identified over 700 chironomids and varying quantities of seven other families.

“Dude, how fast do you think I can click to 999?” drawled her lab partner with his lolling head supported by a free hand while basking in the otherworldly glow of the unused stereomicroscope. She looked concerned and then irritated.

“I am not a dude,” she snapped, “You have counted nearly a thousand gnats?”

“No, I just want to see how fast I can click to 999 on these cool counters,” he said.

“Don’t just sit here,” his prolific lab partner commanded, “ID something—we have only an hour and just a few Bug Nights left.”

The doors open at six on Wednesday. Please click rapidly on the windows with your tarsi should you arrive a bit late. We are on a serious roll thanks to you. We can’t wait to see you there.

BugNight #7: Look up! What is that up in the sky?

“There’s not a lot of parking with these mountains of snow from the blizzard,” observed the nervous parental Bug Night-er.

“Look, there are helpful drones to lead us to the larger parking lot across the road,” said the larvae, “I think I read about it in the Bug Night of the Living Dead flyer.” The larvae was small but he felt that he was superior to his parent by being so observant. His compound eyes were able to see the drone, the laboratory building, and the huge parking lot in one glance. He questioned why his nervous parent was never on the ball. Didn’t he have much larger compound eyes? What the larvae didn’t know was that both of their brains were small. They did not possess the higher functions of reasoning and understanding others’ motivations. The insects operated primarily on instinct; guided by the habits of millions of generations before them.

“Wait a minute,” said the adult insect, “We are ants: we marched here—we don’t need parking and we certainly don’t need ‘helpful’ drones.”

The insects moved quickly to the building and clung to the exterior walls. They knocked desperately on the laboratory windows as the drone hovered ominously above them.

The doors open at six on Wednesday. Please knock on the windows if you arrive a bit late. We can’t wait to see you there.

BugNight #5: Chaos?

“It’s a shambles,” observed a Bug Night-er as she looked around the laboratory, “We should have done more to help Mr. White Coat—he has been alone with us all evening.”

The sole White Coat did not hear this observation. He was running figure eights around the rooms while returning the appropriate ‘scopes to the upper laboratory, emptying alcohol squirt bottles, and checking dishes for wayward specimens hidden in detritus. Had he heard the observation, he would have said that he was grateful for the reliable regular Bug Night-ers who took a leadership role in the laboratory set-up and were helping put away ‘scopes, sorting through the candy box of hand instruments, and coiling extension cords. Others were allowing petri dishes to dry naturally with their alcohol vs. rinsing them with water and assuring that jars and vials were all placed in their rightful homes.

The other White Coat became ill after last week’s Bug Night and imagined the burden that she could not fill for fear of infecting the stalwart and amazing volunteers. She lay writhing on her office floor, sick and having difficulty breathing while she dreamed of being at Bug Night #6.

“I only hope that Mr. White Coat is getting the help he needs,” she thought helplessly.

The doors open at six. Please knock on the window if you arrive a bit late. We can’t wait to see you there.