Bug Nights Archive

These posts are of particular interest to Bug Nights volunteers and others interested in aquatic entomology.

The Bug Night-er always rings twice: Bug Night #10

The telephone rang incessantly. The calls ranged from timid to whining to angry. The texts included ALL CAPS and exclamation points. The emoji cannot be transcribed.

“Hey, no rush but I was wondering if there was Bug Night tonight,” queried one volunteer.

Maybe it was too much for them all having the last week off.

“Please tell me that there is Bug Night tonight,” whined one exceedingly frustrated citizen scientist.

The White Coats were sympathetic. Sometimes, there were circumstances beyond their control.

“Is there Bug Night tonight or not?” demanded a frustrated Bug Night-er.

Yes, there is a Bug Night.


We will see you on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp (ending just as sharply at 8:59 so that we do not tax our kind St. Paul’s School hosts).

No phone calls (or texts), please. Apply in person at the laboratory door or windows.

If you are enjoying these messages and would like to see the archives from the past few years, please visit http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum

I can’t see through this ‘scope: Bug Night #9

The evening huddle was informative. Everyone was instructed on the difference between fingernail clams and Asian Clams. Advice on technology and practical tips were provided.

“What about the dim bulb ‘scope?” asked a Bug Night-er.

“See if there is another ‘scope or if your neighbour is willing to trade with you,” said the male White Coat, “If not, your mobile phone flashlight feature can help.”

“Sometimes the focus isn’t good,” reported another Bug Night-er.

“You might have too much depth of field,” offered the female White Coat, “Perhaps you might try zooming out to flatten the focus.”

“What do I do if my forceps don’t meet?” asked a quiet Bug Night-er, “A lot of them don’t seem to grab the smaller organisms.”

“We can try to fix them here,” offered both White Coats, “Please bring them to us and will try to repair them while you grab another pair.”

“What if the eye pieces are smudged?” asked a new Bug Night-er.

“Please be very careful and use only Kimwipes to clear the smudges,” instructed the White Coats.

Not all of the questions were as specific and easily resolved.

“I’m having a difficult time identifying the larger organisms up close,” moaned a Bug Night-er, “Actually, I can’t see much of anything.”

“Just do your best,” said the female White Coat, “No more questions now and get to work.”

We will see you on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp (ending just as sharply at 8:59 so that we do not tax our kind St. Paul’s School hosts).

Rap blindly on the door or windows to be admitted to the laboratory.

Signs of spring: Bug Night #7

The White Coats were worried. One of them was always worried but now the concern was evident in both of them. In the spring, a young Bug Night-er’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. If that were true, April was the cruelest month for Bug Nights. With sorting on the verge of completion, the stage was set for a challenging few weeks of intense identification. Warm weather and late daylight were a combination for whimsy not serious entomology. There could be trouble.

“We’ve gone into middle May before,” said the female White Coat.

The male White Coat seemed skeptical, having suffered from a lifetime of short-term memory issues.

“Some of the students were in a spring frenzy but most of the Bug Night-ers were really focused on finishing,” she pressed gently.

He was impassive.

The female White Coat wanted to please everyone and keep everyone happy. She knew from nearly a quarter century of Bug Nights that it was a blueprint for disaster.

“Maybe we can find a way to move outside,” she offered.

She outlined a plan for outdoor Bug Nights. Light and equipment without an outside power source would be challenging. What could go wrong? Perhaps Bug Night-ers might work with some of the larger, more seen readily organisms up on the grassy knoll that received the last of the day’s sun.

Perhaps not.

We will see you on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

Roll in as soon as you can make it. You’ll be bowled over with the busy night we have planned for you.Tap on the windows or door to be admitted to the laboratory.

If you are enjoying these messages and would like to see the archives from the past few years, please visit http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum

There’s a lot of bugs going around: Bug Night #5

“My ‘scope feels sticky,” lamented one of the Bug Night-ers.

The White Coats exchanged meaningful glances as they prepared the materials for the evening’s session. Who hasn’t been stuck with a sticky ‘scope at Bug Nights? This was a busy laboratory with many students, eager for knowledge, cramming knowledge and candy all day.

“There are some wipes in the other room,” responded the White Coat-ette, “Just a damp paper towel could also do the trick”

“Have you ever had pink eye?” asked another, “Shouldn’t we be washing our eye cups, too?”

“Yeah, and another thing: how many people have handled these dissecting needles?” asked a germophobic Bug Night-er.

“Don’t sneeze or cough into your hands or on the Petri dishes,” advised the White Coat-er, “You can go down the hall and wash your hands once in a while.”

As the evening progressed, the conversations narrowed to focus on recent outbreaks of a variety of virulent respiratory and digestive tract illnesses striking friends and family. It had been a tough winter.

“There are a lot of nasty bugs going around this time of year,” allowed a Bug Night-er.

As if on cue, the germophobic Bug Night-er rose abruptly and headed down the hall. She returned quickly; ashen and shaking.

“There’s a lot of bugs going around there, too.”

Wash your hands and then come to Bug Night. You can wash your hands again when you arrive at the luxurious washrooms down the hall. We will see you on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

Make sure your hands are clean when you on windows or door to be admitted to the laboratory and washrooms.

You can’t miss it: Bug Night #4

Honestly, she thought, the attention to simple details seems to be all but gone. How hard can it be?

As she walked along Silk Farm Road, she could not help noticing the consternation in their faces. The confusion in their eyes. The frustration that emanated from their pores. She overheard snippets of conversations as they passed one another.

“Bug Nights. I just need to get to Bug Nights before all the good forceps are taken.”

“I heard that if you get there late you get a dim bulb ‘scope.”

“The White Coats said it would be easy to find the laboratory.”

They looked like bugs themselves; albeit with less purpose and no organization. They swarmed in every direction but that of the Lindsey Center. Given that they were walking in multiple directions, it was clear that they were lost. She had to intervene.

“Who wants to go to Bug Nights?” she shouted to no one in particular. Everyone froze. Slowly, they turned in her direction.

“It’s easy, just look for the building with the observatory-style tower on the front. It’s practically the tallest building on campus. You can see it from Pleasant Street…”

All eyes turned west.

“You can’t miss it,” She said as she turned to face the tower herself, “It’s…”

You can’t miss it because we would miss you. This could be the night when we get all samples off sorting trays and into jars for, well, more sorting. Don’t let us miss you on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

When you arrive, resist the urge to scale the building and windows. Just tap on windows or door so that one of your new or returning friends can admit you. Everyone is welcomed for some serious roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-down-to-some-serious-sorting.

Yes, there is no Bug Night on March 7, 2018

We love the Bug Night people. We want them to be safe and happy and come back to Bug Nights for years to come. That is why we have made the decision to cancel the March 7, 2018 Bug Night. Right now, the forecast includes significant snowfall that will occur at what would have been our collective exodus from the laboratory. We look forward to seeing everyone on March 14, 2018.

Bug Night #3: don’t fear the leeches

The White Coat returned the Bug Night-er’s petri dish after the obligatory quality control check.

“Nice work—there was a leech curled up under the oak leaf fragment, be sure to click it into your counts.”

“OK,” he said sheepishly. This was the third time this season that he missed the leech.

It was the same for everyone that evening. Leeches, planarians… They looked like they could be anything but macroinvertebrates.

That night he had a dream. The leeches of Bug Nights past visited him. For specimens that he hadn’t even noticed over the last two weeks, they were surprisingly talkative.

“Did you miss me?” asked the belly leach.

“What about me?” queried the chest leech.

“How could you have missed me?” asked the leech that inched toward his chin.

“You kind of suck at sorting,” opined the belly button hirudnean.

The ribcage leech echoed the sentiment, “Yeah, you kind of bite at it.”

The Bug Night-er awoke with a gasp. It was Wednesday morning. He would never again miss a leech.

Bug Night-ers are out for blood and are sliding toward clearing all of the trays this week. Let’s see how many leeches we don’t miss tomorrow, Wednesday, February 28 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

When you arrive, suction your finger tips onto the door or windows so that one of your new or returning friends can admit you. Everyone is welcomed.

Bug Night #1: is it safe to go back in?

“There are so many,” whispered the young boy, “I don’t remember there being so many.”

“Son,” answered his father, “It can seem daunting but we are among friends; bug friends but friends nonetheless.” He didn’t sound confident. They both became quiet.

The buzzing and clicking from the insects seemed to be a blur or white noise. As the moments passed, they began to hear a pattern in the insect noises. The pattern was like mathematics or music—perhaps both.

“Listen,” hissed the father, “Do you hear it?”

The strain of listening was physically exhausting. As if a fog was clearing, from the pattern or music, a message emerged.

“Get out get out getout getout getoutgetoutgetout…”

The boy screamed. “We have to get out—now!.”

“Wait,” said the father while hushing his now irrational son, “Listen.”

“…of the car the car thecar thecar thecarthecarthecarthecar and come into the lab, the lab thelab thelabthelabthelabthelab.”

Through the laboratory windows, they could see a hive of activity. Bug Nighters were returning from a long hibernation and were buzzing with excitement. It was as if they reactivated just by being in the warm, glowing laboratory again. Outside, arriving Bug Nighters were crawling on the building walls and clicking on the windows of the classroom and laboratory; begging to be let in.

“Son,” said the father as he pulled the boy by the arm out in to the parking lot, “We’re home.”

The boy’s scream froze silently in his throat.

Who says you can’t go home again? Finally, the first Bug Night of 2018 is on Wednesday, February 14 and begins with a training and refresher at 6:00 PM sharp.

Click on the door or window. Everyone is welcomed.

Bug Nights 2017: it’s over

They stood hand-in-hand; arm-in-arm in the darkening and quiet laboratory. They stared at the door as the few bugs that remainined left the lab in their vials, safely snuggled in their plastic egg carton.

“Are they really gone?” one Bug Night-er asked, “Will there be more?”

The White Coats kept their gazes steady. Their faces stretched nearly imperceptibly with small smiles.

“It is done,” said the male White Coat, “It is over.”

“For now…” breathed the female White Coat. Did anyone hear her?

They filed silently out of the building into the night. The sounds of insects greeted them.

We’ll see you next year—or maybe this summer for field season when we deploy and retrieve rocks baskets. We will keep you posted.

In case you suffer from Bug Night message withdrawal, the 2017 weekly messages are posted at http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum/ for posterity. We are working on uploading the 2016 messages with their attendant retro movie images.

The Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program Digital Image Library™ is now online at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B8WzoY1ev57OTm1jWloyVFk4ejQ?usp=ing If the URL does not work properly for you, you may have better results by copying it from this message and pasting it directly into your browser. Feel free to use these images to help you with your Bug Night identifications but please don’t share them—they are the copyrighted property of the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program. Thank you.

Bug Night #14: the big finish—do or die

I am going to miss her, thought the White Coat male.

She had been a challenging identification. Eight hairy but shapely striped legs. An abdomen that just wouldn’t quit. She should have been an easy ID. Yet here they were, the two of them at the end of Bug Nights, finishing the last few and really tough identifications from 2014. The White Coat female had exhausted all possibilities in the McCafferty and was running for the Merritt and Cummins. This was serious. She hated the Merritt and Cummins.

“Ahem,” said the arachnid female.

“I am sorry to keep you waiting all this time,” said the White Coat male, “We don’t see a lot of your kind, um, I mean, family here and we are working hard to provide a positive identification.”

How difficult could it be, thought the arachnid. She was rare. She knew exactly who she was but these White Coats, they had to key out everything.

“Would you like a hint?” she asked seductively as she excreted silk doodles in her web. The doodles were art, really. If you looked at them with your eyes nearly shut, they were caricatures of the White Coats running around or splayed on the web. It was difficult to tell which. They were almost effigies and they looked alarmed or possibly panicked.

The White Coats stopped in their tracks. The Bug Night-ers all froze. They had been working hard all year—many of them for years. Just ask an insect or an arachnid? Could it be this easy?

“Oh, yes,” said the White Coat male as if in a trance, “Please, please, tell us your name.”

She whispered, “Msphetlistomvemfis,” it sounded like but was barely audible. Everyone strained to hear. Was it the denatured alcohol fumes? Everyone seemed spacey. The room began to swim.

“Pardon me,” said the White Coat female dreamily, “We didn’t hear you, would you please repeat your name?”

“Come closer,” the arachnid purred softly as her impressive mouth parts curled into a playful smile. She strummed the web with her tarsi and made the silken White Coat effigies dance.

It’s the big finish on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Do or die. We have a just a couple of vials left from 2014 and they are very challenging. It’s dangerous work. You’ve been warned.

In case you suffer from Bug Night message withdrawal, the 2017 weekly messages are posted at http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum/ for posterity. We are working on uploading the 2016 messages with their attendant retro movie images.