A Lifelong Interest in Insects & Other Arthropods
Since I was just a few years old and observed that bug-balls (roly-poly bugs) "only bounce ONE time,” I have been interested in bugs. I had a very large collection of dead insects by the time I had completed elementary school. I also enjoyed watching and caring for live, captive bugs. I remember feeding 11 bumblebees to a flower crabspider, once. In fact, many of my childhood memories have some connection to my lifelong hobby. Yes, I even dream about bugs, regularly!
I caught Phasmid-fever around 1994, although I've had Diapheromera species-common American Walkingsticks—in my dried collection since childhood. My Grandma Sandy collected them for me in Brownsville, Texas and the first thing I'd want my grandparents to do when they rolled into town in the RV each summer was show me the bugs they'd brought me!
During high school and through my teens, I took a break from the hobby to pursue sports, dating, and other MUCH less interesting hobbies. There weren't any good books back then, or nearby exhibits to really help in understanding the scope and diversity of this one group of insects, but over the years I was still able to obtain 4 species of stick-insects from local pet shops. This was my reintroduction to keeping bugs as pets.
Years later, when I "got online,” I immediately became aware that my fascination with stick-insects was shared with others from around the world. As I met other experienced breeders, I quickly learned that this was more than just an interest for some people. I don't know when, exactly, the turning point was for me, but it wasn't long before I had quite an impressive collection (bordering on ridiculousness).
Before long, I'd managed to acquire many of the various species of stick-insect available in the worldwide hobby. In 2001, I made my first trip to Arizona and this trip caused me to really expand my interests beyond phasmids as a group. Slowly, I evolved into a bug generalist and this broad fascination in everything large, small, and in-between continues to this day, ranging from tarantulas and scorpions to the smallest springtails found in my own backyard.
I feel that many people neglect to cultivate an appreciation for the amazing array of species that live in their local area. By breeding showy "pet" species, I've been able to help support the educator community that displays them to a growing public interest. It is my hope that visitors to these places will give their own backyard bugs a second look, having been exposed to some of the more aesthetically pleasing exotics featured in those displays at museums, etc.
Through a longtime and constantly expanding network of enthusiasts, I work hard to supply items available nowhere else on the planet. I also put in long hours replying to emails or working on my various websites and social media to answer the simplest questions that recur time and again. I love bugs and the people that take the time to be curious about them.
Many people I meet in daily life simply can't wrap their minds around my fascination with "bugs.” They feel that bugs are dirty and creepy and certainly don't belong in homes. It is "American" to view bugs this way.
It is cultural and it is a product of generations of profit-based advertising by pest control companies, and downright ignorance. Many modern pest control companies work hard to promote an appreciation for non-pest insects through supporting outreach programs, but the truth is their business does rely on propaganda-based fear to a great extent.
In my own neighborhood, I receive a knock on my door at least twice each year from pest control applicators. They announce that they're spraying in the neighborhood on Thursday and since they'll already be in the area, they're running "a special.” Asked what they are spraying for, they'll run me off a handful of "most wanted" suspects. To make a long story short, they always leave with a bit of an education.
It is hard for me to put into words how destructive I think their business is. So many good bugs die as a result of the blanket of death they lay down. Even their target bugs are not legitimately dangerous. Sure, boxelder bugs can be a bit annoying on the couple days they swarm each summer. What is a summer though, without blue sky, sunshine and, yes, boxelder bugs? They are otherwise harmless though to the maple tree in my backyard and certainly to human beings.
Bugs DO belong in homes in the same sense that humans belong in nature. We decorate our homes with plants and try to bring a little bit of nature in to help us stay connected to parts of us we've all but forgotten but subconsciously know are there.
Thank you for your curiosity. If you can appreciate insects, you will rarely experience a boring moment in life. Bugs are everywhere. The more you can learn to love them and everything else in nature, the more your life will be a constant experience of love.
Infinite Curiosity in a World of Infinite Diversity