Is it the love bug, or bug love?
BAG THOSE BUGS:
Kristal Watrous gives instructions before an outing
of the entomology club. / Photo by Brooke Barker
By Brooke Barker
The average guy would probably remember to bring
something back for his loved one after a long
trip -- jewelry, candy or a postcard -- but not
He knows the way to his wife's heart: an orchid
"He brought me back the bee from Costa Rica,"
smiles Kristal Watrous, Der's wife. The bee is
shiny green and about three-fourths of an inch
long with a tongue to match (about an inch long).
The entomology club
If you have an interest for
insects, consider joining the Entomology Club
at USU. The group will be watching fun flicks
on the creepy crawlers throughout the year, and
also sponsoring collecting trips and activities
throughout the community. For more information,
contact Kristal Watrous, the president, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (435) 760-4908.
Der didn't develop a love of bugs until he was working
on his bachelor's degree in botany. He met Watrous,
a friendly, outdoorsy girl from Washington, in an unlikely
place: collecting and curating insects in an entomology
class at Humboldt State University in northern California.
Four years later, they continue to share a passion for
the little critters.
"We fell in love during the class, collecting bugs
and going on fieldtrips," said Der, a USU doctoral student
in plant genetics and evolution. "I'm interested in
insects as a hobby, and Kristal's an entomologist for
Some would say the pair caught the love bug, or just
a love of bugs. Whatever the case they have collected
insects throughout the Midwest, southern Utah and on
their separate travels to Belize and Costa Rica for
"We look at bugs wherever we go," said Der. "Depending
on the type of habitat we're in, we'll look for different
or interesting insects. Often big ones are kind of fun
to find, or pretty ones. Shiny, neat patterns or ones
we haven't seen before are also fun to look for."
The couple has more than 5,000 insects in their collection
at home of mostly bees, butterflies and other rare finds.
Watrous is a USU graduate student studying pollination
biology. They also have a display of artwork featuring
insects and plants on the walls above their five storage
cases to greet visitors.
"Most people are surprised to find there are about
20,000 different kinds of bees," said Watrous. "I thought
they were neat, cute and fuzzy. I guess you could say
I got hooked."
Der believes his wife's love of bees complements his
passion for plants perfectly.
"Since bees are important pollinators, you look for
bees on plants, particularly on flowers," says Der.
"We often spend a lot of time looking at flowers, which
is something I like to do."
When Watrous began collecting bugs, at the age of
3, she was scared of the "ones that sting" but still
managed to help her mother with a school project, and
find the love of insects that has helped guide her education.
"My mom was in an entomology class, and I was excited
to get to help her collect insects from the one tree
in our yard," said Watrous. "She ended up with more
lady bugs and related beetles than anyone in her class
She actually used the different species of lady bugs
to trade for some of the bigger, more difficult to find
insects with her classmates. I contributed significantly
to her collection and helped her out!"
The couple's families are both supportive of the hobby
they share, although when they were first dating, Watrous
received a little bit of teasing from her now in-laws.
"I brought Kristal home for Christmas when we were
early on in our relationship," said Der. "Her stocking
was full of candy bugs and buggy things."
Watrous said that now their family appreciates their
knowledge and will often call the couple with questions
about insects they spot. The couple hopes this interest
will also spread to their future posterity.
"We're going to have really nerdy kids who like collecting
insects and plants," said Watrous, who is expecting
their first child.
One thing's for sure: the baby on the way will not
have an insect name.
"Maybe a plant name," said Watrous. "We've thrown
around a few really geeky names, but haven't decided
Josh and Kristal. / Photo by Brooke Barker