In Fall 22 a new club for insect-lovers formed on UMD’s campus, Bug Club. While there has long been interest in forming an undergraduate community group around arthropods, the First Look Fair really cemented the case that there was an abundance of excitement around forming a club. Sophia Athanas, undergrad and president of the club, said that at the Fair she, “noticed that students were very interested in arthropods and entomology (especially when giant millipedes were brought out!). However, many students either couldn’t fit any classes into their schedule or didn’t have the time to participate in extra academic activities, such as the honor’s thesis or minor. Forming Bug Club would solve this problem by providing a low-stress, no-commitment opportunity for students with even the smallest interest to see what entomology is like!”
Shortly after the fair, and with a bit of help from past Entomology undergrad minor, Jenan El-Hifnawi, some inspiration from Michigan State’s Bug Club, and a commitment from Dr. Leo Shapiro to be the club’s faculty advisor, the Bug Club was formed. “The timing for creating the bug club seems just right.” said Dr. Shapiro. “Over these past couple of years, we have created a new minor in Entomology and outreach efforts by several undergrads are generating growing engagement by UMD undergrads with entomology.”
In September, 20 undergrads showed up for the club’s kick-off meeting where they enjoyed snacks, introductions, and a collections event. Sophia recalls, “Students even dragged their friends with entomophobia over to help them face their fears!” From there they were off and were able to fit a surprising # of events into the Fall semester. They hosted more collection trips, visited the UMD Insect Zoo, curated two workshops on insect identification, collection, and preservation, and had a party with the Entomology Student Organization to get to know the department better.
As they wrap up the term, Bug Club is buzzing with anticipation for what is next. Dr. Shapiro is excited for the bug club to continue engaging the community in really unique ways. He says, “Spreading awareness and appreciation of the amazing biodiversity we have here on our planet–including here in Maryland!!–is very important to me. We tend to treat those we know and understand–whether they are other humans or arthropods–with more care and respect. The past few generations of humans have not done such a great job caring for the beautiful, amazing world we live in, but I am optimistic that today’s twenty-somethings, as a group, are more enlightened and recognize the collective responsibility we share as humans to take better care of our only home, including all our non-human neighbors. Introducing more people, young and old, to the beauty and richness of insects–and, more broadly, to the endlessly fascinating and enchanting natural world that exists outside our computers and phones–can only help. And, importantly, finding and learning about new insects is a lot of fun!”
Sophia is currently working on the next term’s schedule - arranging a variety of talks, planning for collections & agriculture visits, and exploring the diversity of insect uses and meanings across cultures. If you too are excited for what’s next for Bug Club and want to know about events or ways to get involved as a participant or in leadership role (treasurer, DEI chair, event planning committee member, or graduate studies liaison), connect with Sophia and Dr. Shapiro via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.