Ever since I was about 5 years old, I've had this sort of half-disgusted, curious fascination with bugs. My next door neighbor, Ashley, had this one nasty, half-rotted out old tree covered with white fungusy-looking junk that every spring would errupt with a nest of small, sunflower seed-shaped, black and orange spotted bugs. We'd capture them and put them in jars for observation, douse them with water to see how well they could swim, and move them to different parts of the tree to see if they could find their way back to the nest.

The color, size, and shape of those little crawlies was etched in my impressionable brain, though I never knew the scientific name. That is, I never knew until a few days ago when I stumbled upon the What's that Bug? website.

What's that Bug? is a photo blog where readers send in pictures of interesting-looking bugs they rustle up in the bathroom, backyard, or bottom of the kitchen cupboard to have them identified by bug enthusiasts, Lisa Anne and Daniel. The two aren't anything-ologists. Their credentials-- Master of Fine Arts degrees-- are more suited to teaching graphic design than classifying insects. But their mutual interest in photography encouraged an exploration into the colorful, creepy, often weird world of microscopic models. And like most of us, their interest is less than scientific. Bugs look cool. "The truth is, the site is an art project", the two admit on the site's "About" page.

I stumbled upon this little gem while doing a google image search for close-up pictures of house flies for an art project of my own. While doing that search, I spotted a picture of an insect that I had always referred to as a "mosquito hawk". Growing up in the south, almost every bug or insect name I've ever learned has been some modified old southern colloquialism that bluntly describes when the bug hatches (June bug, May fly) what it looks like (Pill Bug, Mosquito Hawk) or the sound it makes (Katy-did). So, anyway, I found out that "Mosquito Hawks"--those nasty daddy-long legs looking flying things that resemble giant mosquitoes-- are actually called Crane Flies. And there happen to be hundreds of disgusting, creepy varieties of crane fly.

While grossing myself out looking at close-up pictures of crane flies mating (ass to ass!) and sitting on sticks in swamps (what crane flies like to do when they're not flapping their nasty, spindly legs in my face) I came upon yet another picture of a familiar, but until now, nameless bug. It was the orange and black spotted critter from my elementary school days!

Like stumbling upon a picture of old childhood buddies burried in the bottom of a shoebox, all at once the memories came flooding back. I had completely forgotten about my little six-legged playmates. It'd been years since I'd seen them! And now, I could finally put a name with the face!


Turns out my little buddy is called a "boxelder bug". They're pretty harmless leaf-eaters that swarm in summer and disappear by fall, searching out warm places to overwinter-- like the inside of my neighbor's tree. If not for What's that Bug? and some guy named Ron from South Carolina who sent in a picture of two boxelder bugs 'gettin it on', I might never have known the name of those mysterious creepies from my childhood.

The pages of What's that Bug? are filled with pictures of beetles, scorpions, moths, and all kinds of other insects that resemble rusty metal shavings or hairbrush bristles more than living things. It's a great way to kill time looking at weird shit while ostensibly learning something.
And who knows? Maybe you'll discover a long-lost friend from your childhood, rekindling burried memories of scraped knees, powdered-sugar sandwiches, and even that time you cajoled the neighborhood boy into showing you his junk-- creating a mental image that would be distorted by immaturity and the passage of time until at age 16 you honestly believed that all penises resemble vienna sausages.

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