Entomology Department News
Western U.S. Has More Subterranean Termite Species Than Previously Thought, Study Shows
Insect ID & Questions:
- Discover Entomology with the Entomological Society of America
What Do Entomologists Do? (And Why They're Important)
The study of insects is an important field of science that allows people to learn more about the natural world, how it functions and how it affects life. Entomologists are scientists who study insects and use their research to advise the scientific community, the public and organizations. Learning more about an entomologist's duties can help determine if this job suits your interests and professional goals. Entomologists are scientists who study insects and use their research to advise the scientific community, the public and organizations. Learning more about an entomologist's duties can help determine if this job suits your interests and professional goals.
What does an entomologist do?
An entomologist studies insects and their relationships with other organisms and the environment. Their work contributes to many other scientific fields, such as pharmacology, epidemiology, agriculture, veterinary science and forensics. Other primary duties of an entomologist may include: Planning experiments: Entomologists develop hypotheses and plan experiments to test them. Their experiments can involve observing insects in a laboratory or their natural habitat. Gathering data: Throughout their experiments, entomologists gather data by collecting or observing specimens. Their data may include quantitative observations, like the number of an insect's eggs, or qualitative observations, such as a description of an insect's behavior. Reviewing industry research: These scientists remain aware of the latest entomology discoveries by reading scientific journals and attending conferences. This knowledge allows them to conduct additional research on new insects and refine their data collection techniques. Publishing reports: When an entomologist completes an experiment, they can publish their findings in scholarly articles. Other scientists can use this information to understand insects and their habits better. Advising other professionals: Entomologists often use their findings to advise professionals in other industries. For instance, they might offer insect control solutions to agricultural companies.
What careers are available in entomology?
Entomology is a broad career path with job opportunities in many areas and industries. Here are some options to consider when pursuing a career in entomology: Insect morphology: Insect morphology studies the physical form of insects. In a career related to this field, you may identify species with parasitic behavior and create classification systems. Insect physiology: Insect physiology careers involve the study of the biological mechanisms and chemistry of insects. Many scientists specialize in the digestive, circulatory, respiratory or nervous systems. Crop protection entomology: Crop protection entomologists research methods for managing insects that field crops. They use their findings to recommend products to farmers. Medical entomology: Some insects can transmit diseases to humans. As a medical entomologist, you can study these diseases, develop cures and prevent them from spreading further. Industrial entomology: As an industrial entomologist, you can help companies create insect-derived products. For instance, you might develop production methods for honey or silk. Structural entomology: Structural entomology involves the study of insects in human homes and commercial buildings. Your work can help people prevent termites and cockroaches from invading their establishments. Forensic entomology: Forensic entomologists study insects that invade decomposed cadavers. Their findings help investigation teams determine the cause, time and location of death. Biological control: Those with a career in biological control regulate pest populations using natural predators. They may release a species to control an insect population threatening public health. Teaching: Entomologists with doctoral degrees often pursue careers as college professors. They may oversee entomology degree programs, give lectures and manage research labs.
Who benefits from entomology?
The study of insects is important because it offers benefits for everyone. It affects the global food supply and the health of people and the planet. Here are some of the primary beneficiaries of entomology: Farmers: Understanding how insects affect plant and animal life allows farmers to protect their crops and livestock from insect-borne illness. Homeowners: Learning about insects and how to prevent infestations safely allows homeowners to protect the comfort and integrity of their homes. Animals: Entomology allows scientists to control insect populations that can have a negative effect on animal health. The environment: Entomologists use their knowledge to learn about and control insects' relationships with their habitats, including plants, animals and other insects. The world: By protecting the environment and the food people and animals eat, entomology benefits the entire world.
Work environment for entomologists
Entomologists have flexible work environments that allow them to spend time indoors and outdoors. They typically work in a laboratory or office conducting controlled experiments or analyzing results. When it's time to observe insects in their natural habitats or collect specimens, they visit rainforests and grasslands. Some entomologists even travel to exotic locations to study rare species of insects. As an entomologist, you may find positions at the following locations: college laboratories, research facilities, agricultural companies, government agencies, museums, and zoos. Entomologists often have full-time positions and work during normal business hours. This consistent schedule can help you achieve an optimal work-life balance and care for your family. If your position involves strict research deadlines or travel, your work hours may be more irregular.
Education and training requirements for entomologists
Most entry-level entomology positions require you to have at least a bachelor's degree. Pursuing an entomology degree can help you prepare for your career by providing specialized classes on insect behavior. Employers may also favor candidates with a degree in other science-related fields. Try choosing a major like biology, zoology or environmental science if entomology isn't an option. Choose science courses like chemistry, physiology and ecology, and take statistics and computer technology classes to develop your analytical research skills. If you want to pursue a higher-level position and increase your earning potential, consider pursuing additional education. A master's or doctoral degree in entomology, medical parasitology or integrated pest management is an appropriate qualification. You can also increase your credibility by becoming a Board Certified Entomologist or Associate Certified Entomologist through the Entomological Society of America.
-Indeed Editorial Team, February 3, 2023
Arachnophobic entomologists: when two more legs makes a big difference
People who research insects for a living are just like us — totally creeped out by spiders. This is the finding of a paper that earned retired UC Riverside spider expert Richard Vetter a 2020 Ig Nobel Award. Many know of the prestigious Nobel Prize, awarded to scientists for making substantial contributions to society. Lesser known is the humorous Ig Nobel Prize, typically presented at Harvard University in parody of the Nobel. Since 1991, the Ig Nobel has been awarded for scientific or medical research that “first makes you laugh, then makes you think.” This categorization certainly fits Vetter’s winning article, “Arachnophobic entomologists: when two more legs makes a big difference.” Originally published in American Entomologist in 2013, the work describes a psychological survey of his fellow insect scientists. Inspiration for the study came from multiple experiences Vetter had with other entomologists who expressed varying levels of revulsion toward spiders, which he found curious. He recalls one such interaction with a graduate student from Missouri as being particularly memorable. “I was on campus doing a study that involved boxes containing live spiders. I opened one of them and it was like a cartoon,” Vetter said. “Even though I was a good 6 feet away from her, she took off and I saw a cloud of dust, like she vaporized. And she wasn’t the only one. I kept running into people like this.”
Amongst the findings of the study were specific traits that entomologists particularly disliked about spiders, despite other insects having similar traits. These included the way spiders move, their speed, unexpected appearances, ability to bite and many legs. One respondent who works with maggots explained the seeming paradox of her profession and her arachnophobia saying, “maggots don’t sneak up on you and jump in your hair,” and that she would, “rather scoop up a handful of maggots with an ungloved hand,” than touch a spider. The paradox of insect scientists disliking spiders is further explained by the age at which arachnophobia often takes hold. “It usually sets in between the ages of 4 and 10,” Vetter explained, “long before people usually decide they’re going to become entomologists.” Vetter says he is “extremely ecstatic” to have been awarded the Ig Nobel for this work and said, “it is a true honor, and something to add to my resume.” He also notes that now, UCR has winners of two Nobel prizes as well as one Ig Nobel.
The awards are organized via the Annals of Improbable Research, a magazine devoted to scientific humor that spoofs traditional academic journals. This year the ceremony was hosted entirely online. In keeping with tradition, genuine Nobel laureates presented the prizes. One of the laureate presenters, Andre Geim, was awarded an Ig Nobel 10 years before he received a Nobel. Given the satiric nature of the prize, emcee and Ig Nobel founder Marc Abrahams closed the ceremony as he always does, with the words: "If you didn't win a prize — and especially if you did — better luck next year!"
-Jules Bernstein, October 8, 2020
The study of insects through time
Entomology, the scientific study of insects and closely related terrestrial arthropods, has been impelled by the necessity of societies to protect themselves from insect-borne diseases, crop losses to pest insects, and insect-related discomfort, as well as by people's natural curiosity. Though many significant developments in the field happened only recently, in the 19th–20th centuries, the history of entomology stretches back to prehistory.