The thing I like about insects is that they surreptitiously rule the world. They ravage our important natural resources. They pollinate a huge percentage of our food (not to mention providing us with coffee). They kill vast numbers of people annually, acting as the vectors of major diseases. But they also pollinate – and thus bring into existence – some of the most important pharmaceuticals in our medicinal repertoire. Insect pollination worldwide is said to have an annual value of more than $200 billion.
Insects are nature’s garbagemen, eating the world’s detritus – the main reason we’re not knee-deep in it right now. They live everywhere on Earth- in cities, ice fields, oceans, even in you. They’ve existed on land and ruled in the skies long before most other animal life forms- and will most likely be here long after we are gone. They can be beautiful, gross, small, gargantuan. Insects do it all.
What better way to welcome them back than to visit the Toronto Entomologists’ Association‘s annual Student Symposium that took place last Saturday in Ramsay Wright? Here, a number of students from different Ontario universities (Brock, Carleton, Trent, Windsor, U of T and Guelph) talked about their own entomological research projects. Insects studied included mosquitoes, crickets, mayflies, blackflies, bumblebees and some aquaticinsects. Another presenter discussed the hot (and controversial) subject of DNA barcoding.
In a nutshell, the TEA is a bug club. It’s an independent scientific organization that promotes knowledge about insects and works to bring together people – professional and amateur – who are interested in entomology.
The TEA meets monthly throughout the year in Victoria College (and occasionally in Ramsay Wright) and a guest speaker usually discusses their research. The TEA organizes insect counts, which involve catching, identifying and counting insects from different orders and families. The organization then publishes a newsletter (now if colour!) three times a year that’s full of information about counts, reviews of entomological literature and articles about insects.
The poster presentations, oral discussions and the general activities hosted by the TEA provide a fun way to meet people in the field, learn about current entomological research, find out more about insects in general and (most important) get excited about the upcoming invertebrate season.