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Tiger Beetles Make the Best Babysitters

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"When it's sunny, they come out and they're really active," says entomologist Jeff Holland. "I hand my young daughter a small net, tell her I'll give her a quarter for every one she catches, and it keeps her busy for hours!"

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Holland's on hand with an entourage of fellow Purdue University faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates, all examining insects and discussing their finds, a litany of Latin names.

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Particular treasures include the tiger beetle he shows me—"slowest one I've ever seen, it was easy to catch"—a ladybug found near Mt. Baldy, and a flat bug which he encourages me to photograph through the microscope.

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"These are really cool-looking little things! They live under loose bark on dead trees. We don't see them much, but that's because we're not usually looking under bark when we're collecting. Nothing's flying in all this rain, so we have to hunt for the bugs where they're hiding."

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While he spends most of his time looking at bugs in the real world, Holland is also leading a research project in virtual reality environments, the "Immersive Ecological Experience." No word on whether simulated tiger beetles are any easier to catch.

Photographs by Ford Cochran, IEE image courtesy Jeff Holland

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