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Do you know any want-to-be entomologists? Today we have two opportunities for readers to learn/think more about insects and insect collections. goliathus-book-cover

First up we have a new middle grade novel, In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus (see giveaway details below). The story revolves around the adventures of a young boy who learns that he can talk to insects. He embarks on a quest to find both a specimen of the giant beetle, Goliathus hercules, and also to locate his missing father. Author Jennifer Angus takes us back to 1890, creating the period feel of late-Victorian natural history when collecting insects and other natural objects was a favored pastime. For a full review of this unique, imaginative debut novel and information about the blog tour for the book, see our sister blog, Wrapped In Foil.

Author/artist Jennifer Angus
Author/artist Jennifer Angus

Jennifer Angus is an artist who uses real, although dead, insects in her art exhibits. She creates intriguing designs and patterns with the posed insect bodies. One of the questions that comes up both in the book and in the author's unique art is the ethics of collecting and preserving insects from nature. The author discusses the dilemma from an artist's point of view at her website. Her main points are that there are bigger threats to insects due to habitat loss than collecting, as well as that her art exhibits draw attention to the plight of insects.

From a completely different point of view of insect collections, Calbug is looking for citizen scientists to help them digitize the specimen labels from several insect collections housed in museums. Typically each specimen is labeled with a handwritten tag, and the curators are asking for citizen helpers to read the tags that have been photographed and type the information into a database. Scientists will use the databases to study things like trends in insect populations with changes in habitat over time. Reference collections like these are also used extensively in the area of taxonomy, so that scientists can verify the insects they are seeing today are the ones with the names used in the past. As a side note, many of these collections were started during the late 1800s, the same time period as the book.

If you or someone you know might be interested in the novel, children's book publisher Albert Whitman & Company has graciously offered a signed copy of In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus for a giveaway contest. For a chance to win the book, please leave a comment with a valid e-mail address on this blog post between today (Saturday June 1, 2013) and Saturday June 15, 2013. A winner will be selected at random from the comments on this post and the book will be sent directly from the publisher. Note:  Don't worry if your comment doesn't appear immediately. I will be away from my desk a lot during the next two weeks, so it may take longer than usual for comments to be approved. Edit:  The contest is now closed.

In Search of Goliathus Hercules

Suggested Age Range: 8 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (March 1, 2013)
ISBN-10: 0807529907
ISBN-13: 978-0807529904

Ebooks are available from Open Road Media.

Physical copies are available at Albert Whitman & Company.

Disclaimer:  The review copy of the book was also provided by the publisher.


Did you flip a rock yesterday?

Yesterday was International Rock Flipping Day, a wonderful time to get your children outside to explore the natural world.

We chose to flip the same river rocks as we used in past years. It is actually fascinating to see how things change from year to year. Here in Arizona we had quite a bit of rain recently, and it was actually damp under the rocks. There was a definite increase in the numbers of critters we saw over the results for 2009.

As to be expected, the sowbugs and pillbugs (isopods) were abundant.


Sowbugs and pillbugs tend to hide from the light, so are often found under rocks.

We found these cute, shiny beetles in two different spots. They may be the same ones we saw last year.

We also saw this little guy.

This year we saw a weevil. Some kinds of weevils hide under rocks during the summer, going into a resting phase known as aestivation.

We could tell it was a weevil because of the long snout, almost like an elephant's trunk.

We saw some cixiid planthopper nymphs (remember the adult from Bug of the Week last week?). This one was really moving, so it is blurry. I included it because it has the waxy filaments forming a tail on the back of the abdomen.

I pulled one out for a somewhat better photograph.

We were happy to see some of the tiny snails we had seen before.

Just love those little eye stalks!

That is what I was able to catch on camera. We also saw the same ant species as we saw last year. I'll talk about that at Wild About Ants.

Did you participate? We'd love to hear what you found.

Be sure to visit Wanderin' Weeta for links to more participants.


For those of you who are interested in child-friendly citizen science projects, we have two special events happening this month as part of ongoing citizen science projects.

1. School of Ants has a writing contest for students.

School of Ants is the citizen science project where participants can collect backyard ants under different conditions and send them in for identification. This month the organizers are sponsoring a writing contest for students, with the deadline Sept 1, 2012.


  • Open to any student studying ants
  • Essay should be between 300 and 600 words in length
  • Be sure to include a short biography of author with photo
  • A photograph illustrating the essay topic may also be added (optional)
  • Multiple submissions are accepted
  • First prize is $500
  • Runner-up essays may be published on School of Ants website

See School of Ants for submission guidelines.

Even if your student is not interested in writing an essay, you may still gather samples to participate in the main part of the project. This video will give you an idea how it works and help get you started.

2. The Great Bee Count on August 11, 2012

In conjunction with the ongoing Great Sunflower Project, researchers are looking for volunteers across the country to spend 15 minutes on Saturday August 11, 2012 counting bees on flowers. If possible the flowers should be sunflowers (preferably, Lemon Queen), bee balm, cosmos, tickseed, or purple coneflower.

To participate, login or register at the Great Sunflower Project website. You will be asked to download a data sheet with detailed instructions to record your results. After you count,  you return to the website and click on the "Report your bee count" link to input your observations.

Just to be clear, you don't have to have participated previously. This is a special, one time count.

To help with identification:

A honey bee is brown with not entirely distinct dark bands on its abdomen. It is moderately hairy and has four wings.

Carpenter bees are often black and the top of the abdomen is shiny, not hairy.

Here in Arizona we have many different species of solitary bees.

They tend to be smaller than honey bees and come in a wide range of colors. Some are mining bees, sweat bees,

and these brightly-striped digger bees.

Leafcutter bees are dark gray and have a pad of white hairs on the underside of their abdomen.

In general, bees tend to be fuzzy.

For more about different kinds of bees, see a slide show at Scientific American

If you do either of these projects, we would love to hear about your experiences.