- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
"He did," said cultural entomologist Emmet Brady, host of the Insect News Network.
The occasion: a UC Davis dinner honoring Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Berenbaum had just finished speaking at the UC Davis Conference Center on the honey bee crisis and the next day would deliver a talk on "Sex and the Single Parsnip."
At the dinner, Brady gifted Berenbaum with an Insect News Network t-shirt. He hosts the popular show on the Davis radio station, KDRT 95.7 FM.
The conversation, however, soon turned to the lettering on the back: "I am dying by inches from not having anybody to talk to about insects..."--Charles Darwin, 1828.
Did he say that?
Yes, he did.
In a letter penned June 12, 1828 to his second cousin, clergyman William Darwin Fox (1805-80), Charles complained he had no one to talk to about insects. He started the letter with "My dear Fox." Not "Will" or "Willy" or "William" or "Cuz" but "My dear Fox."
The "I-am-dying-by-inches" quote followed.
In reality, many entomologists feel the same way. Not because they have no one to talk to, but many folks don't listen. Here they are enthusiastically talking about the biology of their favorite insect only to see their "listeners" stifling a yawn, picking imaginary lint off a sleeve, gazing at their watch, or nowadays, checking their cell phone for messages.
Well, doesn't everyone have a favorite insect? And shouldn't everyone be interested in the biology and life cycle of the long-nosed bee fly, the salt marsh tiger beetle, the Madagascar sunset moth and other critters?
Emmet Brady yearns to get people talking about insects. He hosts a show from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays and from noon to 1 p.m. on Fridays. (You can also listen online.) In addition, Brady hosts the Bee-A-Thon, a global online marathon dedicated to raising awareness about honey bees and other pollinators. He also sponsors a "Bug of the Year" contest, urging people to vote for their favorite bug. (This year the long-nosed bee fly won a hair.)
Brady works closely with the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by entomologist/artist Diane Ulllman and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. He's presented such talks as "Insects Run the Planet—Humans Are Only Along for the Ride" and "Cultural Entomology: A New Horizon for the Arts and Sciences."
As for May Berenbaum, she's an icon in the entomological world and will serve as president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America in 2016. She's a a talented scientist, dedicated researcher, dynamic speaker, creative author, and an insect ambassador who wants people to overcome their fear of insects.
And now, the proud owner of a t-shirt calling attention to her favorite subject: insects.