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National Moth Week photos of insects and people. Here's how to add your images.

Photos of insects and people from the 2019 BugGuide Gathering in Louisiana, July 25-27

Discussion, insects and people from the 2018 gathering in Virginia, July 27-29

Photos of insects and people from the 2015 gathering in Wisconsin, July 10-12

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Photos of insects and people from the 2013 gathering in Arizona, July 25-28

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Photos of insects and people from the 2011 gathering in Iowa


How about fleas?

Some groups are so under-represented that it would look as if they didn't exist and yet there are specimens all around us, in every state and province and, very likely, inside your own house and yard. Yes, I mean fleas, Syphonaptera. There are 275 species in North America and yet we only have 27 images and 3 species pages.
Compare to brush footed butterflies, with 209 species in North America. We have more than 5.400 images and 186 species pages.
Yes, I know, everybody loves a butterfly and nobody wants anything to do with fleas; besides, fleas are tiny. But we should try to fill in some of those blanks in the guide.
Everybody: start combing your dog or cat. Better yet, add some new species to the guide; if you find a recently dead deer, squirrel, rabbit or bird, look for fleas. Yech! I know,nobody likes that. Oh, well!

One other dilemma...
Any ideas on the camera work it might take to get fleas? Obviously it's doable, but sounds like it could take a bit of work. Sounds like a challenge to me. I like challenges.

 
Size
Yes, size is perhaps the biggest stumbling block for this. Most of the under-represented creatures are smaller than 5 mm; probably much smaller in many cases.
My very modest equipment consists of a Canon camera S3IS and a Lensmate S3/S5 52 mm. I can barely take pictures of bugs 2-3 mm; anything smaller than that is out of my reach.

Ramifications
I never thought of all the ramifications this would take. Thanks to John Carlson for very well informed comments. I know that Jim McClarin used to collect beetles and their larvae from dead animals (he must be the king of road kills). And then there are the dog and cat fleas that we deal with whether we like it or not; of course that these are just a couple of species, but it wouldn't hurt to add a few more images, especially immature stages as mentioned.

The fact is that there are several groups severely under-represented. What they all have in common is that they lack the glamor of, say, butterflies and that the specimens are very small. They may be hard to find, but that is not really the case with many of them. For instance there are millions of aphids of many species in just an acre of land and there are galls of all sorts everywhere. Many are hard to identify; however many others can be identified by host plant or the type of gall that they make. Of course, this requires a little extra work, identifying the plant, collecting the galls, trying to raise the larvae to adult. But this effort is well worth it.

Here are examples of several families that could be better represented if we apply ourselves:
Aphididae:                        1,351 species (1,020 images in the guide)
Cecidomyiidae, Gall midges:      1,200 species (340 images)
Cynipidae, gall wasps:         750 species (370 images)
Ichneumonidae:                 5,000 species (2,700 images)


Once again it helps to compare with some butterflies:
Nymphalidae: 209 species (4,500 images)

 
Or how about
Apis mellifera: 1 species (324 images)

...In addition to galls, leaf mines could yield us hundreds of additional species of moths, flies, etc.

 
Others
Many of the ectoparasitic taxa (e.g. Cimicidae, Anoplura, Mallophaga) are poorly represented as are many of the aquatic groups.

 
baby steps
recent additions:

One concern:
I'm all for filling in the gaps, but don't forget that this group includes vectors for Bubonic Plague and other diseases. We need to make sure we know what we're doing before asking people to potentially put themselves in harm's way.

It would be nice to get some advice on precautions to take when handling potentially disease-carrying parasites.

 
eh, we gotta make some sacrifices for entomology
I'll start searching as soon as I get that new camera.

 
Precautions
The medical field is heavily biased towards a "better safe than sorry" stance. So much so that there is evidence that some medical advice intending to be cautious actually causes harm. Certainly the safest thing to do would be to avoid contact with all ectoparasites. Perhaps if one were able to scoop a dead animal into an airtight bag (while wearing full biohazard gear of course) and then freeze the contents of the bag, this would kill the ectoparasites, which would either fall off or be combed out of the animal, as long as it had not been in the act of feeding at the time of freezing. Dead mammals have their own risks apart from the ectoparasites, and so certainly none of this would be recommended by anyone with any sort of authority. The risks are probably on par with getting West Nile virus from spending time outdoors without insect repellant and being eaten up by mosquitoes, and certainly not more than hunters face when dealing with their animals. But it is fair to point out that the risks are not absent.

 
cold flea
I am amused because just last week I grabbed a fresh Aberts Squirrel roadkill and put it in a bag. I put it in the spare freezer overnight and the next morning when I removed it, I found a flea jumping around in the bag. The freezer is 8 Fahrenheit. Can't kill all the parasites that easily.

 
Freezing bugs
Here is a story about other tough little bugs. Read about the frozen tick.
We should start a study on these guys.

 
Not trying to be a wet blanket.
I just like to make sure we think through the potential risks- after all, we're encouraging people here to do something that experts quoted in the media are unanimously advising us not to do.

I don't have the background to tell what the actual risks are, so I was hoping to hear from someone who does. Thank you.

 
Chuck is not a wet blanket
You were right to point out that there are risks, because people do die from the diseases spread by ectoparasites and dead mammals, albeit rarely. If my response above was flip, it was directed at myself, because this is a really hard issue that I deal with as an allergist very frequently- what do you recommend to people when the harm can be great, but the risk is very low? We all take calculated risks, for example there is a real possibility of death when we drive a car. The very next time someone out there eats a crab, they will have an anaphylactic reaction without having had any reactions in the past. When the risks are comparable with those that a person is already comfortable with (e.g. people that hunt and skin animals) then there is no need for additional alarm. But for folks that do not normally have contact with dead animals, this is an additional one-in-a-million chance of death on top of what they were already living. And we don't actually know what the risk is- it could be a one-in-ten-thousand chance. If they did not know that there was a very small risk of great harm associated with the activity, that would be a disservice. It seems trivial until you’ve seen someone with tularemia or one of the zoonotic diseases. Similarly, driving a car seems like no big deal until you see what happens to people in serious car crashes- I wish more people could see the inside of the emergency room when victums of car crashes come in. Just because I continue to drive and poke through dead animals knowing these risks doesn’t mean that everyone else should feel comfortable with the risks involved. (I should note that I do not drive and poke dead animals at the same time- that would be a whole other level of risk.)

dismally underrepresented groups
Great point, Beatriz. I think the BG community is growing mature enough to handle such projects as a concerted effort. Also, imagine what a boost could give to the Guide those who have access to good reference collections, if each one would take and post photos of, say, a hundred spp. not yet in the Guide...

Rodents
Maybe I'll start examining freshly dead rodents.. There are some useful flea collecting tips in Bland and Jacques' "How to Know the Insects". Don't have a good camera to image most small to tiny insects though.

Immature fleas
Almost all fleas found on cats and dogs will be Ctenocephalides felis. If you have these fleas, you should look in dark, covered areas near where your animal rests at night. (E.g. under the dog bed.) There you will find the worm-like larvae of which we have no images on BugGuide. You may also find small balls of fuzz that surround the pupae, of which we only have one image in the Guide.

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