July 14, 2010
Several Knox College students, equipped with mesh nets and collection jars, undertook a mission this year to catch as many varieties of creeping, flying, and swimming insects as they could.
To fulfill a requirement of Mathys Meyer's spring term class, Biology 395--Entomology, students captured dozens of bugs, identified them, and assembled them into a collection.
The students made bug-collecting excursions to Knox College's Green Oaks Biological Station and hunted for six-legged creatures at night on the Knox campus.
"There are certain insects that come out at night, especially if they're predators," said Cheyenne Cortez-Faupel, a senior from Reno, Nevada, with majors in biology and French.
For example, she said, some types of beetles are more active after the sun sets, and lightning bugs (also known as fireflies) become much easier to spot.
As Meyer and the students hiked at Green Oaks on one overcast spring day, he stopped to poke his walking stick into a pile of bark beneath a tree. He found a red mite lurking there.
"Bark like this is always a good spot, no matter what you're looking for," said Meyer, a visiting assistant professor of biology at Knox and a 1999 Knox graduate. "If you're lucky, you'll even find a salamander."
Minutes later, he examined another creature but couldn't immediately identify it.
"That looks funky. I don't know what that is," he said. Sometimes, he added, a microscope is needed to make a positive identification.
The entomology course provided students with an introduction to the study of insects and their biological relatives, including spiders.
"We're just trying to learn the process of being in the field and collecting insects," said Cortez-Faupel. "It's a lot different to learn by doing it. That's the thing I like best about this course."
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.