Bug Nights Archive

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

Be part of a diverse community: Bug Night #4

The two White Coats moved through the sit-down and stand-up rooms. As they glided through the rooms in figures-eight, stopping here and there to check a sample or answer a question, they each though independently what a diverse group were the Bug Night people. There were some with a science background but many more whose careers and lives involved accounting, sales, medicine, engineering, tailoring, insurance, childhood education, and the legal profession. Their ages spanned a board range. They all worked together as peers, helping each other and connecting on many levels with music, careers, and other interests,

The White Coats were not surprised when a large reptilian Bug Night-er arrived that evening. Everyone who wanted to learn and work was welcome. They set him up with a veteran Bug Night-er and provided him with his share of the sample to sort. The White Coats went back to their work and at one point, both had to provide assistance in the sit-down room. When they heard a commotion in the stand-up room, they returned to see how they could assist that group. A moth was hovering over a sorting tray and moving material into a petri dish.

“Moths do not belong in the water,” confidently stated the reptilian, first-time Bug Night-er, “It just doesn’t belong here.”

It was clear that he was agitated. The moth was nonplussed. I am an “it,?” she thought, that was a bit off-putting.

“I am a pyralidae,” said the she-moth, “I started my life as an aquatic larva and I come here all the time.”

The White Coats intervened, “Everyone is welcome here,” said the female White Coat, “It doesn’t matter if you are aquatic, terrestrial, mammal, or reptile.”

“As long as you do your work,” added the male White Coat, “Just make sure that you do your work.”

The moth moved her base of operations to the sit-down room to resume her work. The reptile became quiet. He stayed in the stand-up room and put his head down. He used the three digits on each of his short legs, as best as he could, to sort bugs from detritus in sectioned petri dishes.

You are part of the Bug Nights diversity. Crawl, fly, walk, or swim your way to Bug Nights. Everyone is welcome (as long as they do their work). We will see you on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

Don’t get caught up in your day: Bug Night #3

Sometimes, it seems like the minutiae of the days just suck the life out of a person, she thought. Life was filled with a series of remembering usernames and passwords, keeping up with email, and filing hard copy and electronic documents. Once in a while, someone would call but it was rare to break the soulless monotony. She considered the alternatives to her career: retirement or a sabbatical but none of them could sustain her. She turned the page of the latest report she was finishing when the telephone rang. The jarring ring was exciting. She picked up the call immediately.

“Hethlo,” the voice rasped, “I’mnth waithing.”

Time stood still. She was petrified and silent. For the first time in weeks, something new was finally happening.

“Hello?” she said, “Who is this?”

“I’mth waithing fhur yhou…” Then silence.

She checked the caller identification. “A. Rachnid” came up as the caller.

There are worse ways to get the life sucked out of me—oh, what the heck, she thought.

“I’ll be right there,” she said, and headed out to the door to Bug Nights St. Paul’s School.

Caught up in the day’s routine? Life being sucked out of you? There is a remedy. Come to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

Well, hello, there: Bug Night #2

She was just out for a stroll on a Wednesday evening when her life changed forever.

The trail was always quiet and it gave her time to think about what was important in life. She did not have to think long. Her life had little purpose and she felt that she was not making a difference. Her existence was that of a functionary. All of the loose ends and minutiae were overwhelming. She remembered what Chekhov had said, “Any idiot can face a crisis—it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

“Well, hello, there,” she heard a voice say. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she did not notice the insect on the grassy knoll above her. She stopped walking and her thoughts stilled.

“Are you looking for Bug Nights?” asked the insect. The insect seemed calm and its question was intriguing.

“Bug Nights?” she asked, “What are Bug Nights?”

“Bug Nights are what make life worth living,” the insect replied, “You gather with friends, learn about body parts, are given free license to say things such as ‘anal prolegs,’ and meet new friends.”

Could it give her life purpose? Would she make a difference? Would she have something to think about on her long walks?

“How do I start?” she asked the insect.

“Follow me,” it said, and waived a long, hairy leg toward the St. Paul’s School campus.

Give your life purpose. Come to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

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.