How an International Education Program Fosters a Young Student’s Interest in Entomology
By Victoria Pickens and Eno Wang
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.
Programs across the nation work to inspire young scientists about entomology but, unfortunately, many are limited to short-term connections with students through efforts like outreach events, summer camps, or zoo visits. So, how do we help K-12 students stay curious about entomology? While K-12 teachers play a primary role, there are also a variety of K-12 education programs geared toward helping younger students pursue their career interests.
Earlier this year, the ESA Student Affairs Committee (SAC) connected with a student in one such program, Triple I Group, based in Los Angeles, California, which provides education-consulting services for foreign students attending middle and high school in the U.S.
“Our main service is to help students plan and apply to colleges, but, unlike other education consulting firms, we aim to help students find their passion and dig into their interests through self-motivation,” says Stella Yu, Triple I founder. “We help them find resources and encourage them to do their own projects according to their interests. On top of that, we are determined to influence them to become the future influencers in their field, in their communities, et cetera.”
Yu introduced us to one such student, Eno Wang, an eighth-grade student in the LA area, originally from Fuzhou, China, who aspires to be an entomologist. “He is one of the most brilliant teenagers I have ever met, and his passion for entomology is beyond my imagination,” Yu says. “He almost uses his entire free time on discovering related things.”
Eno found ESA, joined as a student member, and eagerly started reaching out to us to sign up for activities and ask about student opportunities. I met with Stella, Eno, and his family to hear about Eno’s interests, and I was astounded by all the projects Eno had started since joining the program. So, I asked him to share his experience with all of us! Below, Eno describes his goals to become an entomologist and his self-organized work observing, collecting, and rearing arthropods in California.
I have loved to observe insects since I was 3 years old, but I only got more deeply into entomology in the past couple years. When I was a beginner in entomology, I had two teachers to teach entomology techniques to me. One of them is a wasp and bee lover. The other one is good at butterflies and moths. I followed the first one.
In the past, I collected all kinds of ants and almost all kinds of bees and wasps in my hometown. When I came to the United States, my work on insect collection got a lot harder, because I can’t share my observations and I don’t have partners to collect with me. No entomology teacher is currently helping me progress my techniques, but I am talented in making observations and quickly learning the information of new insect species. In addition, I am also good at keeping insects and always seek the most effective way to keep them. I have collected a lot of insects in Los Angeles, more than 20 kinds of beetles and a variety of other insects.
Since coming to California, I have been making lots of observations about native beetles and other insects. After winter I notice a bunch of insects appear in California, especially beetles. Honestly, I am not a beetle lover. I love social insects more, but beetles are a large part of insects and very common in our environment, so I can easily collect them around my community. It does not take me long, and their specimens are very easy to preserve. Whether in your backyard or a park, you can see different beetles in different periods. They hide in trees during the day, but you can always observe beetles at night.
The most famous California beetle I’ve observed is the Cotinis mutabilis, also known as the figeater beetle or green fruit beetle. They appear in mid-summer and stay a long time, eventually laying eggs in the soil. They are medium to large in size, and their main food is fig, so you can catch them in July easily. They seem to often gather in large groups of as many as 60 or 70 per fig tree. But they may be more rare to appear in your backyard if you don’t have a fig tree in your area. The first time I saw this kind of beetle was on a golf course, flying around a fig tree. I took out my insect net from my mother’s car after the golf course, then I caught some of them. I found a box for all of them and put some fruits in the box.
I’ve also noticed some other, smaller beetles. On the second day I lived in Los Angeles, I was observing lacewings at night, and a tiny beetle flew to my light. I couldn’t identify it, but it looked similar to a kind of beetle that lives in my hometown in China, possibly belonging to the Sericini tribe of beetles. So, I caught the beetle to observe, but it wouldn’t eat anything I offered it.
Another kind of small beetle I’ve found is the southern masked chafer (Cyclocephala lurida). They are extremely colorful (and cute, in my opinion). I suggest if you want to have a beetle as a pet, the southern masked chafer could be the good option. The first time I saw this kind of beetle was in autumn. I caught it with an insect trap and kept it alive for two weeks.
Two more kinds of beetles I have encountered look similar and are both mid-sized beetles, and they both are good examples of seasonally active beetle species in California, typically only active in June and July. The first time I saw these two kinds of beetles was at night, too. I heard hissing in my backyard. When I came out, I saw them just flying around my trees and laying on my door. So, I caught as many as I could and gave some to my lizards and kept the others.
In addition to his work with beetles, Eno has shared with me some of his other ongoing entomology projects, such as setting up his own at-home indoor and outdoor insect labs, taking notes on the diversity, physiology, and behaviors of arthropods he catches, and maintaining a collection on iNaturalist. But, while the work Eno is currently undertaking is impressive, what’s more amazing is his eagerness to share entomology with others. Eno has expressed a keen interest in connecting with other entomology enthusiasts, hoping to work with others to explore the environment around him and learn about our tiny friends. Additionally, Eno hopes to help others identify insect species and find information on their special traits. For the future, Stella says she intends to help Eno write a virtual book, as well as potentially begin teaching entomology to younger students.
“When we see students with such passion, we just feel our work is so rewarding,” she says. “We don’t calculate the hours for each student we serve, but as long as they need us, we would always love to help. We are not a big company, but we are a group of educators with big dreams and big goals.”
Victoria Pickens is a Ph.D. candidate in entomology at Kansas State University and chair of the ESA Student Affairs Committee. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.