Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Way not to encourage an interest in entomology

I spent much of today helping out a Rothamsted's schools open day, talking about work being done on mosquito repellents. Some of the kids were gratifyingly engaged, some were more interested in shrieking, taking photos of each other and playing sardines in the "Max capacity 2 persons" elevator until it broke between floors, which I hope taught them a valuable lesson. But I was rather expecting that from them. What I was not expecting was the reaction of one of the teachers.

She brought her class over, took a look at the tank of live mosquitoes I was standing next to and announced "Eeeew, that's disgusting!" I was a little taken aback but launched into my spiel anyway: "Well maybe they are a bit disgusting, but they're also fascinating, did you know that...." only to be interrupted by her saying "No, they're horrid". So I told her the word she was looking for was "horrible" and poured bed bugs in her hand bag*.

I found her reaction utterly bizarre - surely as the class teacher she would have had some idea of what a visit to an institute doing a lot of insect research would entail, and to have organsised the trip she must have seen some value in it for her class? Once she'd wandered off to be revolted by someone else's display her pupils actually seemed pretty interested in what we were doing. I just hope they don't pay too much attention to her over the next few years.

Today I have learnt:

a) It is extremely difficult to appear fascinated the fourhundred and sixty fifth time someone tells you that they/their Mum/their partner often get bitten by mosquitoes on holiday/in the garden.

b) It is even harder not to appear puzzled when someone says they often get bitten at barbecues, and then asks whether there are mosquitoes in Britain.

c)Asking a class of teenagers if they can think of any diseases spread by mosquitoes, and getting a confident answer of "AIDS", just shows how desperately we need to sort out comprehensive sex education in this country.

*unfortunately I only did this in my head.