Bug Nights Archive

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

Is it really over?: Bug Night #11

“I don’t know what I am going to do,” mourned the Bug Night-er with tears in his eyes. He was bereft at the thought of no macroinvertebrates in his future until 2020.

The female White Coat tried to bolster his spirits with the promise of field work in the summer but he was inconsolable.

The other Bug Night-ers began to realize the gravity of the loss and mourned them each in their own private way. There would never be any more Bug Nights 2019. There would be no further strange emails in the in boxes of Bug Night-ers. There would see be no further interactions between Bug Night-ers and their macroinvertebrate friends.

“Whatever shall I do?” cried the Bug Night-er, “Wherever shall I go?”

The White Coats did give a damn but the Bug Nights contract ended on this very evening and they were very tired. Field work would begin in a matter of weeks.

The Bug Night-er would have to find comfort in his own way. Given his history of being too familiar with some of the more dangerous macroinvertebrates, the White Coats were concerned.

“I will have to find a way to have my own bug nights,” moaned the Bug Night-er in a nearly unintelligible sob, “I have other friends who care more than you.”

The White Coats assured the grieving Bug Night-er that that was not the case. Unfortunately, it was too late. The Bug Night-er was enmeshed in another case. Perhaps his last. Only time and a good stereomicroscope would tell.

It is the end. At least for 2019. Let’s make the most of our last night together. We will see you on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 (that’s tonight) beginning at 6:00 PM sharp
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It’s all a charade: Bug Night #10

The Bug Night-er put one arm over her head, as if she was a cat, grooming her face—except she wasn’t a cat. She was trying to emulate her favorite bug for charades.

“Limnophilidae!” shouted another Bug Night-er with inappropriate confidence.

The charader was deflated. She attempted to emulate a dorsal hump on her second abdominal segment. She loved this bug and felt that everyone should recognize it by now. The sitting room Bug Night-ers gazed at their navels. Some, seeming uncomfortable, fled the room.

“Leptoceridae,” whispered the hovering standing room Bug Night-er.

The female White Coat asked the hoverer to speak louder and with more confidence.

“Leptoceridae!” she repeated with feeling.

“Ah, now I see it,” chimed in one of the other Bug Night-ers.

The next Bug Night-er began his Gerridae pantomine. More navels received gazes.

Look into my eyes and listen: Bug Night #9

“How many times have we told you,” asked the insect. It sighed the sigh of the most world weary being ever. The Bug Night-er was stunned. He had heard that the bugs could speak to volunteers but he thought that it was a metaphor, like a horse whisperer.

“The White Coats need you to organize us by order in your Petri dish,” continued the dreamy eyed bug, “See, there are Roman numerals etched into the bottom of each of the Petri dish’s four compartments.”

The insect’s six-legged companion chimed in, “Write down those four Roman numerals on your scratch paper, and indicate what you have in each and how many: see how some of the humans are using the clickers from the sorting days?”

The White Coats were grateful for the intervention. They were racing around the laboratory in figures-eight, trying to keep up with the more challenging identifications and assuring that they closed down the laboratory no later than 8:59 PM. They listened intently. It was wonderful having other volunteers—or bugs—parrot their nightly instructions from over the many years of Bug Nights.

“Identify. Organize. Write. Don’t wait until the last minute,” said the insect, “That’s the key to a satisfying Bug Night.

The Bug Night-er grabbed a clicker and scratch paper. Quietly, the female White Coat slipped him a sharpened pencil. The Bug Night-er did as he was told. What fruit was there in arguing with a bug? They were small but legion. Better not to find out.

You could learn a lot from a bug. We will see you on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 (that’s tonight) 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 http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum

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 http://www.merrimackriver.org/forum

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.

A fistful of invertebrates: Bug Night #5

It can be difficult to find balance.

Some Bug Night-ers quietly worked on their samples and began ramping down at 8:30 PM. Some were ready to go much earlier. And then there was the Bug Night-er who couldn’t get enough. He came early and the White Coats could barely drag him off his sample at 9:03 PM.

“Wait,” the Obsessive One pleaded to the White Coats, “Just a few more?”

The White Coats exchanged exhausted glances. The Obsessive One would not be offended. He had already turned his gaze back to his stereoscope. They understood and empathized. After all, as volunteers, they had started the Upper Merrimack Monitoring Program because of their own shared obsession.

“I know that I can clear this grid,” said the Obsessive One, still with his head down, “Just a few more.”

Everyone gathered to help him find a stopping point so that he could pick up work on his grid next week. The other volunteers swept in and broke down his station as he sat there, bereft as his evening’s work evaporated around him. The stereoscopes were returned to their cubicles and the tables were wiped down. The equipment was swept into its closet.

“I know that I could do more,” said the Obsessive One under his breath, “if only I could…” his voice trailed off in the rush to close the laboratory and shut down for the evening.

“Good night,” said the Male White Coat.

“Thank you for your wonderful work tonight,” said the Female White Coat.

As they turned off the lights, the White Coats noticed that the door would not close.

Bring your invertebrate obsession to Bug Nights. We will see you on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 beginning at 6:00 PM sharp.

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 thought 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, mammalian, or reptilian.”

“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.