I have always been a bit of a nerd about animals, with a certain affinity for insects and arachnids. One of my favorite books as a kid was the one pictured to the left. There were other books in the series, I believe, but the one I remember is the one about insects. Most memorable for me are the cartoons in which a little kid asks questions, usually in response to something unfortunate like a mosquito bite or bee sting, which are answered in the body of the text.
I also recall going to the COSI science museum in Ohio with my dad, where we took a short workshop and received cocoons to take home from which butterflies eventually emerged. COSI was like a Disneyland park for a nerdy kid. Also in Ohio I recall being bitten by a Stag beetle in our garden, which my dad had to pry off of my finger. In spite of that experience, I always enjoyed the portion of my book that covered Stag Beetles. They are like little tanks.
In Alaska we spent many days at a couple of ponds trying to catch small frogs and other creatures. At one point I spent a fair amount of time cultivating pond water so I could look at the aquatic creatures under a microscope. At the big pond (as opposed to the small pond) we once caught a rather large creature that we couldn't identify at the time. When I reached into the jar it bit the heck out of my finger with some rather large mandibles, prompting me to extract them from my flesh, throw the monster on the ground, and crush it. The image of the beast stuck in my mind and I later identified it as the larva of the Great Diving Beetle, which is known to be a rather aggressive carnivore.
Poisonous spiders make me a bit nervous, but fascinate me greatly. I kept a Black Widow in a jar for a few weeks in fourth grade, which spent some time on my teacher's desk and met an untimely end on the bottom of my mother's shoe when it escaped and ran across the kitchen counter. When I worked for a dairy farmer milking cows for a few months in high school I had another memorable encounter with the species. I saw one of the cows jump away and bellow as she ran through the doorway, and after the cows had passed through I saw a large spider hanging in the doorway. Upon further inspection I found that it was a Black Widow, the largest I've ever seen. I captured it in my water bottle for my family to marvel at when I got home. The next day the bellowing cow laid down and died, so I can only surmise that the spider bit it on the eye, lip or some other vulnerable area as it ran through the door.
At the University of Idaho I took an Entomology class that was incredible fun, even though it was in the morning and I sometimes didn't make it to class. The folks who taught it were your stereotypical science professors, full of nerdy bug puns, unkempt white hair, v-neck sweaters, and an intense love for all things with segmented exoskeletons. I kind of wish Boise State offered an Entomology degree, as that would make for an interesting career path.
I regret that I never made it into the Beekeeping course offered during the Spring semesters at U of I, as it always conflicted with my National Guard drill weekends. All hope is not lost, though, as I have been in contact with the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club of Idaho, who assure me that their members can teach me the ropes of beekeeping when I return home. In the meantime I am educating myself as much as I can on the life cycle of bees and the tools needed to care for them and extract honey for personal use. In middle school and high school I worked moving sprinklers for our neighbor, a farmer. On many mornings the guy across the street would come out in his veil and suit to check the hives. Being a bit backwards conversationally and averse to social interaction, I never asked him about his operation, but I often wondered what beeherding was all about. Soon I hope to find out.