Monday, April 6, 2020

Coronavirus, Entomology, and This Blog

May this latest post find you healthy, still sane, and abiding by the directives of your local, state, provincial, and national governments and health care professionals (not necessarily in that order). We are collectively stressed more than usual, and for some of you, normal stress was already almost intolerable. We were eager to greet spring by rushing outdoors, and are now told we should stay inside as much as possible. The coronavirus (covid-19, SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has impacted everyone, including entomologists, and sponsors of this blog. Never fear, we will persevere, and recover.

Ouch! Another reason to stay indoors!

The closure of all non-essential businesses and agency offices has had a profound impact on the field of entomology. Notably, nearly every university and museum entomology department is unoccupied or nearly so. There is little or no maintenance of our valuable insect and arachnid collections. Agricultural offices, pest control operators, and related agencies and enterprises are operating with skeleton crews, if not closed indefinitely. Little, if any, field work is being done. The advancement of our scientific knowledge in these disciplines is at a standstill, or proceeding at a snail’s pace compared to normal standards.

One of the more troubling scenarios is whether medical entomology will be a casualty, if only by attrition, or by the recruitment of medical entomologists into the current epidemiological crisis response. Already I am seeing posts on social media of ticks and mosquitoes that citizens are encountering as they go outside for exercise and fresh air. Should the bite of a fly or tick result in illness, who is going to treat those victims? Will those people be seen at all, and if so, how, in the interest of complying with social distancing, and the increasing pressure to devote all hospital and medical facilities to containing and treating covid-19 cases? If any of my readers know the answers, and I am all ears.

Meanwhile, many small businesses are suffering incalculable economic damage that will only get worse the longer we fail to comply with proven methods of “flattening the curve” of virus cases. We all personally know employees and proprietors who are facing agonizing layoffs, or the prospects of having to make those tough decisions. This includes the two major sponsors of this blog.

I made the decision earlier in the year to suspend payment for advertising here, from Tender Corporation (After Bite®), and BioQuip Products and BioQuip Bugs (see right sidebar for links). It had nothing to do with the impending pandemic at the time. I am in a fortunately solvent financial situation for the time being, and I also knew I would be posting here more infrequently. It is not fair to demand revenue for a product or service that is decreasing in frequency (but, hopefully, not quality).

Please consider purchasing goods from my sponsors if possible. Tender Corporation manufactures all manner of outdoor medical products that remain useful even during the pandemic, when we may be confined to our own property, but still confronted by biting insects and arachnids. BioQuip is the premiere outlet for high quality entomology equipment, from nets to pinning supplies, plus products related to botany and other scientific disciplines. They provide merchandise for every level, from hobbyist to professional. They offer one of the most complete listings of books and educational materials found anywhere. Can’t go collecting because you are restricted to your home? No problem. BioQuip Bugs sells many specimens from all over the globe, responsibly sourced.

Besides browsing the blog, including the clickable tabs at the top of the page about how to build an insect collection and how to take amazing images of insects with your phone, there are other ways to further your interest in entomology. Investigate online classes. Join social media groups centered around an interest in insects or arachnids. Look in on iNaturalist, Project Noah, and Bugguide. Go on an indoor bug hunt. Make drawings, paintings, or sculptures of your favorite insect. Read books and articles about bugs. Watch documentaries about insects, like Microcosmos. There are endless possibilities in the digital age, which may be the saving grace of the timing of this unfortunate and mournful epidemic. Please stay safe, healthy, and sane, and know that you have my empathy and appreciation.