Monday, January 20, 2014


Whistle (my hiking partner) studied entomology in college. That's the study of insects and bugs and things. This is not to be confused with etymology, which is the study of how to teach insects how to properly use the English language. Both are quite tricky, and both mostly consist of just trying to pin the insects down so they'll quit moving and pay attention already.

While we hiked the trail, Whistle was always very good at identifying the weird little arthropods that would be crawling all over us and our possessions at any given time. This was especially helpful when she could let us know what sorts of things we should be mindful of in regard to our general well-being and health. 

At some point she was hiking behind Dumptruck when she let out a tiny "Yip!" sound and smacked his backpack hard with her hand. Dumptruck stopped and turned around, confused.

"What's up?" 

"Oh, nothing," she shrugged, "You just had an Assassin Bug on your backpack."

"A WHAT?!"

"It's nothing. It wouldn't have killed you. It just would have hurt for weeks afterward."

Throughout our adventures, I sometimes remembered to snap a little photo of the invertebrate critters with my iPod. Today, I sat down with each of the photos and asked Whistle to explain to me what they were. She dictated some things to me, which I wrote down verbatim. We agreed that she wasn't allowed to look anything up, she just had to try and identify them from memory. So if there are any other entomologists out there, be nice! She hasn't had to know this stuff for almost 2 years now!

For each insect I have provided Whistle's Scientific Identification, followed closely thereafter by my own scientific identification. Also, I have included what I think they would be saying if insects could talk.


Whistle's Scientific Identification: It looks like a Tomato Hornworm, but I don't know for sure. That would be Manduca quinquemaculatum (that's genus, species). They're pests. They eat all of your tomatoes, all year long. Just kidding, they only eat tomatoes in the summer, when there are actually tomatoes to eat. They're closely related to the tobacco hornworm.  But really, it could be a lot of different sphinx caterpillars, but I'm too lazy to look it up. It's pretty! They're also really squishy.

Clever Girl Translation: It looks a little bit like if a yellow chicklets and a gummy worm had a baby. So I will call it Worst Movie Candy Bug.



Whistle's Scientific Identification: So, that's a dragonfly. You can tell it's a dragonfly because of the way that it is. It's a big fatty, which is one way to be able to tell that it's not a damselfly. Dragonflies and damselflies are Odonates. You can generally tell the difference because damselflies are skinnier and they usually rest with their wings folded above their backs, but dragonflies always rest with their wings outstretched (flings arms to the side to demonstrate). They have hilarious aquatic nymphs that look like spiders and they can eat tadpoles sometimes. Yup. That might specifically be a Blue Dasher, but I'm not sure.

Clever Girl Translation: D'aawww it is adorable and I will keep it and it will be my pet and I will call it Cornelius Von HopperBottom the Third.



Whistle's Scientific Identification: That's a katydid. It's in the family Tettigoniidae. They're Orthopterans, like grasshoppers and crickets. You can tell them apart from grasshoppers because grasshoppers have little stubby knob antennae, whereas katydids have long filamentous antennae. They like to hang out on the tops of trees, or the tops of Dumptrucks. Also, they sound like aliens. SOMETIMES THEY ARE BRIGHT PINK. LOOK IT UP.

Clever Girl Translation: This dude rode on Dumptruck's hat for hours! I will call it Hat Bug!



Whistle's Scientific Identification: I'm pretty sure that's a Black Widow, but I can't tell super well from the picture, but that's what I remember. I don't want to be held responsible for remembering this, because it was at the beginning of a 24 hour fugue-state (Clever Girl translation: 5am on the day that we got up and hiked 44 miles). This was crawling on my tent. Black Widows are in the genus Latrodectus! P.S. You shouldn't be that afraid of Black Widow spiders because it's really hard to die of a Black Widow bite, especially if you are a healthy adult. You should be more wary when it comes to picking up Wheel Bugs, which also won't kill you, but will hurt a lot. Also, Wheel Bugs are not at all related to spiders. Shut up.

Clever Girl Translation: YIKES. THAT'S A BLACK WIDOW. I'M OUT. PEACE. 



Whistle's Scientific Identification: This is a Dobsonfly. They are Megalopterans. They have aquatic nymphs (babies) called Hellgrammites which are horrifying monsters that can be 8 inches long. I saw one that was 8 inches long, anyway. Once they're not gross water monsters, they fly around and scare people but the real truth is that they won't hurt you. The males (like this one) have huge ridiculous mouth parts to basically show off to potential mates. They will never bite you.

Clever Girl Translation: I'm hereby knight you: Giant Nightmare Face Bug.



Whistle's Scientific Identification: This is some kind of sphinx moth. I'm too lazy to look up what kind. If you're sensing a pattern here, with the sphinx moths, good job. I don't care very much about Lepidoptera. They are shiny and pretty and showy and they get lots of attention from enough other people. My favorite sphinx moth, no wait, my TWO favorite sphinx moths are the Pandorus Sphinx moth which looks super cool and clearwing bee-mimic moths that you can catch with you bare hands in front of people, convincing them that you have just caught a bee in front of your hands. Then you can scream a lot, and then let the moth out of your clutches. The way you can tell a moth apart from a butterfly is that butterflies have clubbed antennae (antennae with little balls on the end), and moths have feathery delightful sensuous antennae. Welcome to bugs.

Clever Girl Translation: I found this on a bathroom wall somewhere in a state park in Pennsylvania(?). I will call it Beautiful Bathroom Bug.

Clever Girl

P.S.A. From Whistle:
Remember kids, even though millipedes might smell delicious, they are poisonous. Do not eat them.


  1. Was just watching Harry Potter and realized that Whistle is actually Hermione Grainger. Wicked smart, brave, funny, and can solve any problem...the perfect travel companion! The pictures and stories are awesome. Love, Mom and Dad