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Photo by Fred Pollard
Dr. Patrick Dailey of Alton, a professor at Lewis and Clark Community College, has released a field guide and study aid entitled “Photographic Guide to the Common Insects Observed in Madison County.” Here, Dailey poses with one of his insect dioramas, one of his many hobbies.
ALTON — Dr. Pat Dailey is bugged.
More accurately, he is concerned that Madison County is not bugged enough.
“Insects are on the decline, not only in Madison County but probably everywhere,” Dailey said. “I haven’t seen one butterfly this season, except for a couple at the Nature Institute. The number of pollinators is dramatically reduced, as well.”
A striking example of Dailey’s alarm stems from a study by Blackburn College biology professor Charles Robertson, who spent the years between 1887 and 1916 amassing visits from 1,429 different pollinators.
“A few years ago, they went back and re-examined his research,” Dailey said. “The number of pollinators had dropped by about 90 percent. Monarchs also are down 80 percent or more. I haven’t even seen one at all this year, although some of that may be from this year’s heavy rain.”
This summer, Dailey has released his own project, “Photographic Guide to the Common Insects Observed in Madison County.” While the book, 15 years in the making, is complete for now and is available to students across Greater Alton, it can never truly be “finished” (at least not until we stop finding new bugs).
But for now, it is the most comprehensive and “skin crawling-ly” complete guide to the county’s insect world.
The photographic journey through the six-legged kingdom features common insects associated with prairies, ponds and forests of Madison County. The Heartland Prairie in Alton, the Nature Institute Sanctuary and Preserve in Godfrey, Lewis and Clark Community College campus, and the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, Mo., were major sites for photographing the images included in the guide.
Included in the picturesque display are more than 1,000 photos, including less common insects that appear only during late summer and fall, along with numerous species of goldenrod and aster that bloom during that period.
While many will see the beauty and color within the photos of the dragonflies, bumblebees and grasshoppers, finding the aesthetic attraction to the fungus beetle or the long-snouted planthopper may be a tad more challenging.
They are, however, informative (but you do have to look up the Acanalonia bivittata. Seriously.).
Dailey’s interest in the world of bugs reaches back to about 10 years of age.
“I would get the neighborhood kids in the yard with butterfly nets, and at night I would be out with a flashlight, looking in the trees,” he said, laughing. “I have been doing this for a long, long time.”
Dailey attended Kent State University, Youngstown State University (where he received his bachelor of science in education-biology), the University of New South Wales and the James Cook University of North Queensland, both in Australia, and Bowling Green State University, where he received his doctorate in zoology. He has actively taught courses in science and biology since 1973, including field biology, evolutionary theory, and human sexuality and reproduction.
His teaching tenure with Lewis and Clark Community College began in 1982 (following a year at SIU School of Dental Medicine as an electron microscopist), where he continues to serve as an adjunct professor. During that time, he has created 13 courses for the college and was one of the first to begin teaching online classes. He also was awarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professional Development Grant along with two No Child Left Behind grants. His 1976 study of insects frequenting the common milkweed was the most comprehensive of its time.
While that may present an impressive resumé, Dailey is not too proud to ask for help. In regards to updating the guide, he says he welcomes input from other “creepy crawlie” aficionados.
“Taxonomic identification of insects or other organisms within a particular animal kingdom or, as included here, insect order or family, can be complex, tedious and argumentative,” he writes in the introductory chapter. “I would imagine most entomologists would agree that insect taxonomy is not for the weak of heart. Because of this, many insect taxonomists specialize in specific insect orders, families, or genera.”
He also says more natural history on insects is available online, including U.S. Department of Agriculture websites and those supported by state departments of agriculture and natural history and state universities and colleges with programs in entomology, insect pest control, agriculture and horticulture.
“Be careful,” he said. “Students today rely too much on smartphones. You have to know how to determine if (a website) is (dependable) or not.”
The 1976 milkweed study and the new insect guide both are available on the Nature Institute’s website at www.thenatureinstitute.org, or you can email Dailey for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Although insects are becoming more scarce, they are still around and waiting to be studied. As Dailey says in his guide, “Keep an eye out for insects. They are everywhere.”
Do you feel something brushing against your arm right now? Maybe crawling up your neck?