Mr. Nystrom didn't know what he was unleashing when he told our high school biology class that fifty percent of our semester grade would be for our insect collections. Or maybe he did. Maybe he knew that we'd neglect a lot of other schoolwork to spend our nights shimmying up rough, creosote-soaked light poles with jars in shoulder bags and syringes of formaldehyde clutched between our teeth. Perhaps he cackled a little to see Michael Smith rip off his tattered 1990 World Cup hat at recess and run screaming off through the jungle, to return late for class with the abdomen of a perfect blue morpho butterfly pinched between his fingers—completely oblivious of the blood seeping through his freshly ripped T-shirt.

It's possible that Mr. Nystrom figured we had an excess of entomology in our little corner of the Amazon rainforest, and that it would do us all good to get out there and murder, pin, and classify a few insects.

When it was all over, we had collections that would be the envy of any university biology department, a lifetime's-worth exposure to formaldehyde, and a near encyclopedic knowledge of what we finally (to his immense pleasure) had stopped referring to as "bugs."

I'm still fascinated by insects. Like, for instance, this death match between two bloodthirsty hymenopteras that I just managed to catch the end of .

Or how about this crazy-huge diptera that the spider in my window didn't quite manage to hang on to.

It's a brutal, fascinating, drama-filled world down there in tiny-land, people. Take a look.


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