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Saturday, March 02, 2024

Inside the insect world: Entomology student turns coursework into a collection

An entomology student turns course material into a collection.

While many of us are inclined to swat away bugs from our peripherals, insects are a welcome interest for University of Wisconsin-Madison student Taylor Snorek. 

Snorek lacked a passion for bugs most of her life until a project for her entomology class turned into a hobby. After being tasked with capturing creatures from all ten insect orders, her insect collection went from a tedious school project into a newfound passion. 

“When it comes to trying to catch certain insects, like flies, it can be challenging,” Snorek said. “But spending time with bugs is always very rewarding.”

Even now, after her course finished, Snorek often walks through Picnic Point to catch critters. 

The process of collecting bugs is simple, she said. With the help of nets and special jars, Snorek can capture any bug that comes her way. 

Although there are very few bugs she shies away from, her few attempts at capturing a wasp were short-lived and may not be on her bucket list moving forward. Additionally, some invertebrates like gnats require a more grueling process.

“Itty-bitty bugs like gnats take a lot of patience,” Snorek said. “You take a point of a triangle of cardstock, bend it, line it with glue and place it on the right side of the bug.” 

However, what she does hope to continue is her curiosity. Snorek’s classroom experience taught her to look at different bugs, classify them and note miniscule differences most people miss with an untrained eye. 

Snorek said she first got interested in bug collecting when she discovered how fascinating it was to observe different insects’ countless intricacies under a microscope. From her class and free time, Snorek has garnered a collection full of beetles, moths and dragonflies. 

Of those she has collected, her favorite insect is a “beautiful” dragonfly, an insect that she was originally unable to collect for her course. However, the bug later appeared in her life.

“On my birthday, my coworker told me there was a dragonfly on the windowsill of our lobby,” Snorek said. “So I finally caught one, and it was so exciting.”

Following this victory, she now pursues a praying mantis.

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Beyond collecting, Snorek is part of the entomology club at UW-Madison and finds bugs crawling into other areas of her life, like art and jewelry. Snorek said she has found a great community and is happy to share her collection and knowledge with fellow bug lovers. 

There is much to learn about insects, and while Snorek does not plan on focusing her studies on bugs, she said it’s necessary to learn their ecological importance. 

Bugs may be a gateway to understanding ecosystem functionality, and she hopes to use her new knowledge of the creatures to gain a better understanding of the world.  

“I’m looking forward to all the new experiences I’ll continue having thanks to my interest in insects, like trying bug cuisine at Swarm To Table this year,” Snorek said. “They have shown me so much.” 

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