Collecting Bugs

Bug jars, much nicer than the ones I had

Perhaps you might be able to relate to today’s memory, perhaps not. Anyhow, here goes.

When I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, I was quite fascinated by collecting insects. It was not unusual to find somewhere in my bedroom a collection of unfortunate victims impaled through their thoraxes with straight pins and attached to a board of styrofoam with little labels containing childish scrawl as to what their species was.

Of course, I had my Field Guide to the Insects to assist me in noting the subtle differences between, say, the Chinese and praying mantids.

It helped that from the age of nine onwards, I lived out in the country. So many a summer day was spent with my collection jar looking for insects who would be immortalized by having their carcasses mounted on my styrofoam board to be proudly shown to any kids who would visit.

I was just fascinated by bugs in general. I would capture many a honeybee or firefly to be confined in a mason jar with holes punched in the lid. A handful of grass and clover flowers would accompany them, of course, and some lived for days before they either passed or were granted a reprieve by me.

Bug collection

But gathering bugs for collections was a different matter. You would need a collection jar which would double as a killing jar. When you got back to the house, you would drop an alcohol-soaked cloth in with the bugs to cause their demise.

Once the little critters were belly-up, it was time to impale them and double-check the Field Guide so they could be properly identified, complete with scientific name.

Luna moth

Of course, the collections were fragile, so they would require rebuilding every year. No problem. there were always lots of bugs around.

I discovered that parking lots were amazing places to find exotic insects to add to my collections. They also had the added bonus of already being dead. Giant water bugs, Goliath beetles, rhinoceros beetles, and beautiful moths could be found beneath the big lights which had lured them to circle endlessly until their death from sheer exhaustion.

One morning I stepped out into the yard to find a gorgeous luna moth lying in the grass. I don’t think I ever saw anything so beautiful in my life (with the possible exception of Annette Funicello). I had seen photos of the beautiful insects, but had not yet seen one in real life. I proudly added the moth to my current collection of the time.

I don’t stick bugs to a board anymore, but I still enjoy strolling through parking lots when my wife and I walk our two schnauzers. I frequently spot big insects lying on the pavement that still give me a little thrill to see. My wife smiles patiently while I explain to her how rare it is to actually encounter giant water bugs.

Again, some things never change.

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