Wild Jobs: Bug Detective Rob Lawrence

By | February 1, 2011
From Xplor: February/March 2011

Bad bugs beware. Insect investigator Rob Lawrence is on the case.

It’s a sunny afternoon in June, and Rob Lawrence’s phone is ringing off the hook. The caller tells Rob something is eating the leaves on her trees, but she can’t catch anything in the act.

Rob asks a few questions, then offers this advice: At night, shine a flashlight up in the tree. If lots of tiny orange eyes look back, the leaf eaters are June beetles. They feed at night and disappear underground during the day. Rob gets lots of calls like this. He’s a forest entomologist (en-toe-mawl-ah-jist)—an insect scientist.

Thousands of kinds of insects skitter, flitter and crawl across Missouri. Most are good for nature, but a few harm forests. When trees die, Rob arrives to look for clues. If bad bugs are to blame, he recommends how to keep them at bay.

On the corner of Rob’s desk, a huge spider is caged in a plastic tub. A note taped to the tub reads: “Is this a tarantula?”

“No,” Rob writes back. “Just a big, harmless wolf spider.” And, with that, another case is solved by the bug detective.

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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole Leclair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Alicia Weaver
Cliff White
Kipp Woods