Many people when they think of insects think of unpleasant things that sting or bite. Insects do much more. Ladybugs are a classic example of a beneficial insect, but there are many more. Ladybugs are also of conservation interest. Insect conservation in the United States is just beginning to be considered thanks to the efforts of groups like the Xerces Society.
Conservation is not a natural process, but a human process. We are often both the agents of and the reason for conservation activities. Therefore, conservation activities cannot help but reflect human values and desires. This means that simply sharing a cool insect is a conservation activity and this is why speaking to school groups and the like are important. I recently had a very odd opportunity to share some insect wonder:
This August I was driving back to Idaho from a trip to Arizona. My truck was having some problems with the heat and running the AC was out of the question. As the sun was setting, the bank thermometers said 117 degrees Fahrenheit – rather than stop for the night, I thought it best to push on in the ‘cool’ of the evening.
As the night wore on and I headed North to higher elevations, amazing thunderstorms began to develop. While driving in a heavy, lightning flashing downpour, I saw deer on the road and applied the brakes. The wet road meant I wouldn’t be coming to a stop, and the mountain terrain meant the road was the only option for the truck. The deer were in my lane, headed off the road, so I maneuvered into the oncoming lane. At just the wrong time, one of the dear jumped into the lane I was using. The truck fared better than the deer (auto vs. wildlife 1, 2, 3), with minor damage.
Coming into the next town at ~4:00 AM, I was pulled over by the police. The officer asked if I knew I had a headlight out, and I replied I hit a deer back in the mountains and didn’t think it safe to camp in the thunderstorms. The police officer and I went to examine the front of my truck and while we were there another police officer showed up and stated that I was a biologist, he knew by the pressed plant specimens on the passenger side. When they found out I also had insects they wanted to see the coolest one I had. Luckily the night before I had collected a beautiful male Dynastes granti and Chrysina gloriosa. The officers were impressed and got their crime scene cameras and began taking pictures of the beetles. I wrote the beetle names for them in their note pad and we began talking about cool insects and life in general. I was promised a ticket if I left town before daylight, but the officers never even ran my plates or asked to see my driver’s license, registration, or proof of insurance. It was actually a pleasant stop, with a couple of nice guys who were concerned for my safety and who enjoyed learning a bit about insects and the habitats that support them.