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Summer Time as an Entomologist
By: Gillian, Volunteer Manager, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Ahh...Summer time. School's out, barbeque can be smelled blocks away, snoballs are everyone's favorite treat, and there are bugs. Lots of bugs! This is the best time of year to be an entomologist. Arthropods show up in abundance beginning in the Spring and continue their stay through the summer months and into early Fall. At the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium our staff entomologists take advantage of this time of year to collect all that we can to bring back for presentations for our guests.
One way that we collect our animals during the summer is to set up a light trap. As you can see in the picture, we use a plain white sheet and a really big, bright light bulb called a mercury vapor light. What makes this light bulb so important is that it puts off a lot of UV light. Since most arthropods see in the UV spectrum, this bulb confuses their navigational systems and they fly straight for the light or the sheet where an entomologist can collect them. To quote the Insectarium's Director of Entomology, Jayme Necaise, "Setting up a light trap is the lazy entomologists way to collect bugs." And it's true! Using this method we can sit back and wait for the bugs to gather on the sheet that is illuminated by the bulb rather than chasing them down with a net. Most nights during our collecting trips we can bring back hundreds of animals. Most of which are set up in different galleries and exhibits for the guests of the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium to view. Others are sent back to the Insect Rearing Facility to hopefully mate and produce eggs. This way we can keep a good number in our collections for presentations.
Staff are not the only people that get to venture out in the field with our entomologists to collect. Volunteers are invited to go on collecting trips to see what it is like to be a scientist for a night. For more information on how to become a volunteer at the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium please click here.