Identify me or else: Bug Night #8

“It’s not rocket science,” breathed the insect, “We’ve been through this more times than I have compound eyes.”

The insect was so close that the man could feel and smell the insect’s hot breath. The insect held the man in its mandibles and considerable tarsi. It was no surprise that it smelled of rotten leaves. Oddly, it smelled also of denatured alcohol. The White Coats looked up from their quality control stations. This was nothing they had not seen before. It could end one of two ways. They continued checking samples.

The insect continued with its controlled but rage-filled tirade. “Did you even count my legs? Check the length of my antennae? How about checking my underarms and abdominal segments for gills?”

The man would like to have answered but he did not. First, he could not given that the insect’s mandibles were closing over his throat. Second, well, second didn’t really matter but second, he didn’t have a good answer. The insect was correct. They had been through this identification exercise more times than he could count. Instead, he reached down and flipped open his Macroinvertebrates of the Upper Merrimack to the dichotomous key pages. The insect glanced down and seemed to understand. It loosened its grip. The man pointed to the first question.

“Abdomen with branched gills and scattered hairs” or “Abdomen without gills, small,” the man choked out aloud. The insect released him with a hiss of approval and stood by, waiting for the disposition of its abdomen assessment.

We have line drawings, photographs, and dichotomous keys. You can do it. We will see you on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

The Bug Man always rings twice: Bug Night #7

There are some things that you just can’t dial in, thought the quietly competent Bug Night-er. Take Bug Nights, for instance. It was an all-hands-on deck, roll up your sleeves kind of thing. She had heard the White Coats whispering about legendary Bug Night-ers who took home specimens to identify over the summer. She couldn’t believe it was possible. It seemed that she needed not only the White Coats’ guidance on difficult samples but also the camaraderie that came from an evening of like-minded people coming together for a common purpose. Even the peripheral, non-bug-related conversations were as vital to her as the professional assistance. Where else could she discuss the subtleties of trochantin and vacuum cleaner-like labrum of caddisflies? She looked at her watch. It was only 11:00 AM on Tuesday: more than twenty-four hours until she could be sitting in front of a glowing stereoscope, breathing denatured alcohol fumes, and tucking into the first identifications of the season after a long winter of subsampling.

She was still lost in thoughts about bug body parts while relaxing at home later that day. She was distracted with her anticipation of another wonderful Wednesday at Bug Nights. The family still maintained a land line and she was so surprised to hear it ring that she picked it up without thinking or looking at it. Immediately, she regretted her decision. It was little comfort to her that she was able to identify the insect right before the flames lit up the room.

When opportunity calls, don’t pick up the phone, head to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

If you are enjoying these messages and would like to see the archives from the past few years, please visit

Security issues: Bug Night #6

It’s a changing world but the security guard did what he could to walk the line between safety and friendliness. He had known the White Coats since the beginning when they first started in the laboratory nearly a quarter century ago.

He poked his head in at the laboratory to see if he was needed and to say hello.

“Everyone say hello to Glenn,” sang the female White Coat.

“Hello,” repeated the Bug Night people.

“Everyone say ‘thank you,’ to Glenn,” shouted the male White Coat.

“Thank you, Glenn” droned the Bug Night people.

Glenn went on with his duties for the evening. He liked the Bug Night people. They were well behaved and, for the most part, cleared the building by 8:59 PM each Wednesday evening. They also left the laboratory in a cleaner condition than they found it, which was helpful all around.

“I wish that we could stay longer,” said the obsessive Bug Night-er, “Why can’t we go until 10:00 PM?”

“I think that you know the answer,” said the female White Coat, “We can’t overstay our welcome and campus security and safety are very important.”

The Obsessive Bug Night-er grumbled to himself—or was it to the bugs in his petri dish? No one but the female White Coat was listening. Everyone else was chattering giddily about anal prolegs and pedipalps. This was the one night of the week that they were in a situation to say such things aloud.

The female White Coat furrowed her brow. She could hear clipped phrases from the Obsessive One including, “You’re a big one!” “You want me to stay, don’t you? and “I bet you could do some damage with those tarsi.” Every time, the female White Coat began to report these disturbing snippets to the male White Coat, she was called away to check a petri dish or verify a caddisfly identification.

The night ended uneventfully. The Obsessive One seemed fine. He cooperated with the hourly stretches and exercises, heeded the one-hour warning, and seemed unusually resigned to the 8:30 PM ramp down. The female White Coat was unsettled but everyone left peacefully and satisfied with their evening’s labours.

At 9:05 PM that night, Glenn drove into the parking lot.

“Good old Bug Night people,” he thought, “They are long gone and everything is clean—just like they promised—now I can go home and relax.”

Everything was dark but the outside door appeared to be ajar and there was an unusual green glow in the corridor.

“Wait a minute,” he said to himself under his breath.

He entered the open door and was met for the last time by a new Bug Night-er.

Security is important: safety first! We will see you on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.