Entomology: The Study of Insects
- Wednesday, July 19, 2006
One Family's Foray into the Strange and Fascinating World of Little Vermin that Slither, Scamper, Crawl, and Climb
How does one get into the study of bugs? Well, in our family it all began one day, several years ago, when we heard a scream from the basement and ran downstairs to find one family member in slight terror over the creepiest bug we'd ever seen hanging by its pincers from the ceiling ductwork. Needless to say, a child was sent, at a high rate of speed (it's okay to run in the house when there's a bug to catch), to the kitchen to find a container suitable for catching this vermin.
We managed to catch the bug, about four inches long, which looked like a cross between a scorpion and a cockroach. This bug had large pincer-claw looking things in the front, long antennae, a very long tail, and to make matters worse, smelled awful, just like sniffing a bottle of vinegar. We had no clue what this bug was, but we were determined to find out. After a little research in our insect field guide, we determined that this scary-looking bug was something called a vinegarroon, or whip scorpion.
Now what were we to do? After a family meeting we decided that this critter was destined to become a family pet. We went out to the garage and rounded up an aquarium and some reptile sand (we actually have several spare aquariums at any given time since one never knows when a bug, snake, lizard, or some other living thing might join the family--we like to be prepared), a small hollowed out log for shelter, and a small water dish. After fixing up a nice home, our vinegarroon was placed inside and the aquarium located in the kitchen. Were we in for a surprise. This bug wandered around making the most fascinating tracks. What an interesting thing to watch.
Over the next two and a half years, this vinegarroon was a great pet. It ate crickets, enjoyed plunging itself, head first, into its water dish and remaining there for hours, and wandered around leaving tracks. Watching it catch the crickets we provided for food was often a family event. It could grab a cricket with its pincers in no time flat, eat it, and then clean up the mess by moving the debris and leveling the sand with those same pincers. We also found that if it was frightened, it would shoot that vinegar-smelling stuff out of its long tail and pretty much stink up the aquarium. After Vinny finally died, we had another opportunity to catch a vinegarroon and, again, this second one lived about two and a half years. A very cool pet indeed.
Then there was and is the tarantula we have living in its own little aquarium in the kitchen. We found that our snakes shed their skin, and we were fascinated by the process; and similarly, tarantulas molt, shedding their skin. Well, although we have seen tarantulas cruising around our property and on the front porch, we went to a pet store and purchased a tarantula so we could watch it molt. We have had Hairy for 8 years now, and in all that time he has only molted twice. Molting is an interesting site to behold, but we'd like it to happen more frequently.
Then there was the black widow spider pet. This was, by far, the most educational vermin we've ever had. We found this black widow outside, minding its own business, and felt compelled to catch her. We caught her, put her in a bug container, and added some twigs and grass. This bug, like the others, found its home in the kitchen.
Often, after dinner, we'd feed this spider at the dinner table. She was always in her bug container, and we'd grab a cricket from our cricket supply container, throw it in, and watch her swoop down, tie it up, and then suck it dry. What a sight to witness.
Well, all was going smoothly with the black widow when we noticed that she'd produced an egg sac. Steve, the dad, told Heather, the mom, that she'd have to get rid of the black widow because of the egg sac. Further, he stressed that normal people don't have black widows for pets, they don't keep them in the kitchen, and egg sacs are not wanted.
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