Entomologists: The Coolest People on Earth?

An entomologist is a scientist who studies insects, including their taxonomy, morphology, physiology and ecology. Insects greatly outnumber people by more than a billion to one and many species have been around much longer than humans, making entomology one of the most interesting sciences around.

The Making of an Entomologist

Someone who is fascinated by insects might decide to pursue a career in entomology. While bachelor’s and master’s degrees are offered in entomology, many entomologists obtain a doctorate with particular specialties, like insect forensics, medical impact on humans, and the effect insects have on crops. After finishing their degree programs, entomologists go on to work in museums, zoos, labs, pest control operations and the forest service. Salaries for entomologists vary greatly depending on their education and areas of expertise. These scientists go wherever their work takes them, and since insects are found across the globe, that can be just about anywhere.

The Best Place to Be an Entomologist

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Bolivia’s Madidi National Park is the most biologically diverse place in the world, making it an ideal area to study insects. This park is home to thousands of species of insects, many of which remain unidentified. But the perfect place to study insects truly depends on an entomologist’s area of interest. Scientists who want to help organic farmers protect crops from insects probably won’t set up shop on Mount Everest. And finding an entomologist specializing in aquatic insects might prove difficult in the deserts of Africa. Entomology plays a vital role in pest control, and since insects love humidity and heat, it’s easier to find work in Louisiana than Montana.

New Discoveries in Entomology

While more than a million different species of insects have been identified – the oldest dating back 400 million years – entomologists are continuing to discover new species. Scientists believe there are more than 30 million unidentified insect species. Just recently, entomologists identified a new species of stick insect in the Philippines. Temporarily named Conlephasma enigma, this wingless insect has a colorful, stout body, sprays a skunky odor to defend itself against predators, and resides on Mindoro Island’s Mount Halcon.

The Amateur Entomologist

While nothing can replace a formal education in entomology, insect enthusiasts can delve into this fascinating world in their own backyard. The Amateur Entomologists’ Society (AES) was created with these people in mind. Amateur entomologists play a critical role in biodiversity and biological recording, as well as insect conservation. According to the AES, most biological records for insects in the United Kingdom come from the amateur entomologist community.

Amateur entomologists take great care in their collection and handling of insects. To get started, grab a jar, gloves, net, tweezers and follow the tips found here and here. Those wishing to keep insects as pets should consult appropriate care sheets.

Entomologist Trivia

  • Notable entomologists include English naturalist Charles Darwin, Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov and American biologist Edward O. Wilson
  • Congress once considered naming the Monarch butterfly the national insect, but the legislation did not pass
  • All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs – they are simply a type of insect
  • The European honey bee was introduced to North America by the pilgrims
  • According to the World Health Organization, mosquitos cause more than 2 million deaths worldwide each year making it the world’s most dangerous insect. These vectors of disease infect people with malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever, West Nile virus and dengue
  • The world’s smallest winged insect is the Tanzanian parasitic wasp. This insect spans less than 0.3 mm – smaller than a house fly’s eye
  • The giant weta, only found on New Zealand’s Little Barrier Island, is the largest insect ever to be photographed
  • The University of Kentucky Department of Entomology reports that the tabanid fly, a relative of the horse fly, was clocked at flying 90 miles per hour. In addition, the Kentucky school found that honey bees can beat their wings 190 times per second

Entomology Appeal
If creepy, crawly creatures don’t seem to bug you, entomology could be right up your alley. Whether your passion for insects is pure hobby or you are ready to make it into a career, the vast world of entomology has intellectual allure for years to come.