The Bug Chicks are two women who are out to change the way the world thinks about insects. Collectively, The Bug Chicks are two entomologists who earned their advanced degrees in the topic from Texas A&M University. I was fortunate to interview one of them, Kristie Reddick.
Meet Entonomologist Kristie Reddick
Kristie Reddick has her Masters Degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University where she studied the solifuge arachnids of Kenya.
Would people who knew you in your youth be surprised be your current career choice? What led you to study insects?
People are probably not surprised that I’m doing something “weird” and are also not surprised that I’m doing something that is at least somewhat based on my performance background. I had quit the theater (I have a BFA in Theater) and had traveled to Africa to study large mammals, as was my secret dream for the age of five. Well, I had taken one entomology class and the whole world opened up for me. I call it “putting on my small eyes.” The bugs in Kenya won me over and it’s where I first saw a solifuge. I determined then and there that I would study them in East Africa. And I did!
Why do you think there’s a persistent stereotype that girls are afraid of creepy crawly things? I have two older teen boys and they still call on me to remove spiders (arachnids, not insects, I know) or even errant moths.
I think this stereotype persist because, in some ways, we’ve gone a little backwards since I was a kid. It felt like being a ‘tomboy’ was kind of okay when I was little. But with the advent of reality TV, all we see of women it seems, are catty, competitive, heavily-made up, pop-star/sexy types that don’t spend time outdoors. People don’t see women as we are– multi-dimensional. I can rock an evening gown, grab a spider, run a business, be insanely silly, clean out the garbage disposal and control a classroom of 6-year-olds. I can play princess with my niece one minute and grab the microscope to look at bark with her the next. The stereotype persists, but it is not real. It is not representative of the women I know or the tens of thousands of girls I’ve taught in the past ten years. We all need to voice against the stereotype.
Why is it important for people to understand and appreciate insects?
Insects are a part of our cultural and evolutionary history. They have shaped the world we live in. They effect our food, they carry diseases, they fertilize the plants and the soil and they inspire our technology. Also, I don’t believe there is one person on this planet who has not had an encounter with an insect or arthropod of some sort. These animals are ubiquitous and the more we learn about them, the more we learn about ourselves. Plus, they are just freakin’ cool! There are so many people who suffer from boredom. Learn about insects and the issue of boredom is resolved. (You may just need a really passionate teacher to guide the way.)
There are a of cool facts about insects, and also some horrifying ones. Share a favorite!
How about a horrible myth? People think all female mantids eat the head of their mates. This is not exactly true. First of all it is not exhibited in all species and second, if a female is well-fed before mating she won’t eat the male. Males actually had a highly stylized mating dance that they do to get the females to accept them as mates. Also, there are mantids that are so big in the southern US that they hang out on hummingbird feeders and catch the tiny birds AND EAT THEM. #WHUT
I saw you mention a “pinning party” on Twitter and thought you were referring to pinning insect photos on Pinterest, maybe because I have an entomology Pinterest board. Explain your version of a pinning party.
I was about to teach at the National Science Teacher’s conference in Nashville and I needed to refresh our teaching collection. So a pinning party, for us, is lots of insect pins, some dead specimens that need to be mounted, a favorite movie and the total zen that comes with pinning and spreading insects. It’s an art and a science. I love it and find it very relaxing. It makes me fall back in love with insects again. We don’t catch and kill insects often but we recognize the need for great specimens in teaching and research collections.
Do you eat insects? If so, any favorites or prep tips?
We do, sometimes. I make a mean mealworm taco. We’ve tried lot of different kinds and I used to teach a course at Texas A&M about Insects and Human Society. One lecture was about entomophagy and I used to prepare this huge insect feast. It was drama. I think the key is to know how to cook the different insects well to bring out the best flavor/texture. For my mealworm tacos I freeze the large mealworms after gut loading them (feeding them apples and celery for a few days) then I parboil them. Then I pop them into a frying pan with a bit of hot sauce and serve them in corn tortillas with onions and cilantro and lime juice.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think it’s important that both girls and boys have positive female role models in STEM and elsewhere. We love our work as The Bug Chicks and feel honored everyday that we get to pursue our passion and teach people about the amazing world of arthropods.