Sunday, February 28, 2010

A worm in my banana

Today I found a larva in my banana. My first reaction was not unlike most any other's: ew. But the entomologist in me quickly took over, so my "ew" lent itself to curiosity, amusement, and even did choose my banana, after all.

A larva, likely a moth, in my banana.
Kind of cute.

Never having found a larva in a banana, I think I'll rear it out to an adult. It is some sort of moth (order Lepidoptera). Identifying larvae to their order, such as beetle (order Coleoptera), fly (order Diptera), etc.) is easy based on features like the prolegs, body shape, and head. But beyond that it gets dicey, and even accomplished entomologists simply resort to rearing out a larva to the adult stage, at which point wing venation is used to for more specific ID (genus or species level).

The same is true for you...if you find a larva somewhere unexpected and your curiosity outweighs the gross factor, rear it out! Then you can get help with a more specific ID, which will help you learn more about it and allow you to modify the environment so as to deter the critter from returning (as in the case of pantry pests) or encourage it (as in the case of garden beneficials). Keep your rearing environment similar to the conditions in which you found the larva; pay attention to humidity, light level, food source, and temperature. In this case, I simply left the little guy in the banana, folded the peel back over it, and put the whole thing in a terrarium placed away from sunlight (similar conditions to my kitchen cupboard). In 1-2 weeks, I will be the proud momma of an adult Lepidoptera.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ambiguous ends

It's easy to loose yourself in graduate school, especially when you're three quarters done but feels like an eternity yet before you'll finish. And it's easy to forget why you started, or where you're going. Things get lost by the roadside (like blogging). Lately, I feel like no matter what I achieve or sacrifice, I'm failing. So I've been trying to reconnect myself with the inspiration behind why I started back in school and where I am going with this education. And I've been surprised to find it's not what you might think. It's not *all about* the insects or learning a new (aquatic) and exciting system. Not solely, anyway. It's to attain success in life, and to balance that with the wholeness that makes it worth family, friends, a meal worth taking a moment to savor, having the time to enjoy the weekly rituals of chores and visiting my local co-op. Graduate school and research has come to feel like the end-all, rather than a means to an eventual job with aquatic systems that allows me to make a difference in ways I value.

I took a mental break and indulged this weekend in laundry and a sunny-day bike ride to my local co-op. As a reward for hard studying, I gave myself a special treat: blog-hopping. Blog-hopping forces me outside of my self-centered world to peer into the lives of others, sometimes inspiring and sometimes shaming me into a fresh perspective.

Grad school has demanded a lot of late. And while I've hung in there through a tough situation beyond what most students would have, I'm not sure my perseverance has put me any closer to completion. With good reason, only those who can pay the price of sacrifice cross the finish line. I don't know if I'll cross the finish line. But I have learned that every once in a while it's important to put life -- and anything in it that blocks out the sun -- into perspective, to remember why you started and where you're going, and that there are many ways to define success. Thanks for the gentle reminder of all that and the perspective, blogosphere.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Alive, just barely

Ugh, graduate school. It's killing me. No one said it would be this difficult....then again, most of them didn't have such unusual circumstances. Long story short, my committee has dissolved in the past month, and I have hit the ground running to form a new one. With my data and remaining funding (through June) in tow, I have rapidly re-formed a new committee. Almost. A major professor is pending, and on that point I should know next week. A word to the naive: academic departments are important, make sure you belong to one. On campus committee members are key, make sure you have at least one in the same town. And major professors are good, 3-way co-advisors leave a lot of wiggle room. And married co-advisors? Just don't go there.