Monday, August 09, 2010

Bug Zoo by Nick Baker

Say you are a young entomologist. I know I was. Once upon a time, I was fearless in flipping over rocks and poking roly poly bugs so they'd do their thing. I caught grasshoppers and lightning bugs and put them in jars with holes punched in the lids (long story short - this always led to dead bugs). I rescued worms that were stranded on sidewalks after rainstorms (okay - I still do that), and crushed little red "blood bugs" and picked up caterpillars and inchworms, and more. Okay, so I was also fascinated by pouring salt on slugs in the garden and watching them shrivel and die. (I know - mean, right? But I thought it was really cool when I was, like, 8, and my grandmother handed me the salt.)

Nowadays, I am a bit of a girl when it comes to bugs, but the little scientist part still tucked away inside me found Bug Zoo: How to capture, keep, and care for creepy crawlies by Nick Baker to be completely fascinating. I was variously "oohing" and "ewwing" as I read this new book from the folks at DK.

As the name implies, Baker is giving tips on how to make your own bug zoo. As in, what sorts of containers to use for what sorts of bugs, how to create the proper environment, what to feed them, etc. This book is all about the catching of and caring for insects and arachnids (and mollusks - the snail and the slug fall into the mollusk category - and invertibrates, which is what wood lice turn out to be).

          Two-page spread describing slugs & snails

Nick Baker is a naturalist who is, I am told, the host of Nick Baker's Weird Creatures, which is on the Smithsonian Channel. In his introductory note, Baker says:

I built my first bug zoo, and, wow, did it open my eyes!

Each pot, pickle jar, and matchbox was a source of wonder, a dramatic little world with as much excitement as any TV soap opera. I witnessed what looked like scenes from a science fiction movie - some so terrifyingly bizarre they'd be unfit for broadcast. I saw MURDER and cannibalism, slashing blades, and chemical warfare. I watched caterpillars being reincarnated as butterflies. And I learned firsthand that there's nothing ladylike about a ladybug!
Baker's introduction was so persuasive, that I almost decided to start a bug zoo. But then I remembered that I am no longer an intrepid bug explorer, but a bit of a screamer when it comes to bugs. I am, in fact, in favor of leaving them alone outside, and squashing them flat when inside, if I'm being truthful. So intentionally bringing them in no longer appeals to me. But I almost wish it did, because this book is a thoroughly clever and thoroughly thorough resource for the capture, care and keeping of things like roly poly bugs (actual name: wood lice), slugs & snails, aphids, caterpillars, worms, earwigs (EWW!), ladybugs, spiders (ACK!), crickets & katydids, pseudoscorpians, mosquitoes (WHY?), dragonflies, and backswimmers.

        Two-page spread showing the proper establishment of a cricket "pavilion"

A must for budding young scientists everywhere. Just don't bring those bugs inside my house, okay?

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