Bugs. Most people dislike them. They may swat at flies, scream at spiders, gasp at caterpillars, or run from bees. Other people love insects and they might even cry if you accidentally slap a mosquito.
If you love bugs, you might want to become an entomologist.
Entomologists study insects. Two-thirds of all known organisms are insects – that’s 1.3 million species. Thousands of new species are discovered every year. Spiders, mites, mosquitoes, butterflies, crickets, caterpillars, aphids, whiteflies, and bees are just a fraction of the creatures that entomologists study.
Entomology is a combination of botany, zoology, biology, and horticulture. Insects have been studied since prehistoric times. Some insects are 400 million years old. It has been considered a science since the 1600s.
Insects are both harmful and beneficial to the green world of plants, trees, and crops. Bees pollinate flowers to help them reproduce, while spider mites can destroy the season’s corn crop or moth larva can eat your prized petunias. Most insects develop a bad rap. They’ve earned reputations for destroying crops, spoiling harvests, or eating entire forests. Insects can cause millions of dollars in damage every year.
Entomologists research which insects do what and why. They know insect behaviors, ecological area, agricultural impact, diseases, eating habits, living accommodations, and much more. Entomologists conduct experiments, do laboratory work, do research, and get hands on with plants and insects to make sure the world’s trees, plants, and crops will survive.
From a green standpoint, an entomologist’s goal is to ensure that our forests, fields, and flowers are not destroyed by a pesky, buzzing insect. But they have to do it without affecting the circle of life or putting a kink in the food chain. Entomologists spend their time looking for ways to control and eliminate pests. They explore traps and sterilization techniques. They help crop scientists develop insect resistant crops. They inspect food products and test pesticides. They monitor species and their roles in every ecosystem. Insects keep the entomologists very busy.
The study of entomology is important because without this knowledge the world would face a massive crisis. Entomologists are the reason we have corn in the grocery store, cotton for t-shirts, grain to make beer, and flowers to give on Valentine’s Day.
If you want to become an entomologist and devote your life to studying bugs, it is best to attend university to pursue a degree in entomology, biology, or zoology. There are jobs in entomology at all levels of education, but as with most science-based jobs, a degree is important. It is a good idea to understand agriculture, soil, plants, trees, and crops if you want to focus on agricultural entomology. Other specialties include forensic entomology and pest management.
One way to boost a resume is to become a certified entomologist. The Entomological Society of America (ESA) offers two certification options – Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) or Board Certified Entomologist (BCE). An ACE needs 7 years of experience in pest management. A BCE needs an entomology related degree, years of experience, and several references.
ESA certification helps bring a consistent quality to the field. Entomologists can make $28 to $35 per hour or about $51,000 per year, while working 40 hours per week. They spend their time researching and conducting experiments in laboratory settings and in the field.
Entomologists may focus on developing a corn that is resistant to spider mites, generating traps to stop weevils from destroying the soil, creating traps that keep aphids away from plant leafs, producing rice that armyworms avoid, keeping greenbugs away from grain, or inventing a way to stop the pine beetle from ravishing the forests. Insects create plenty of problems that must be addressed. When it comes to the plant world an entomologist’s work is never-ending.
The study of insects is an appealing science. Without it, our world would be very different. As long as insects don’t bug you, this might be the perfect career.
Quick Facts About Entomology
Job Title: Entomologist
Description: Study of insects
Employers: Universities, Museums, USDA
Pay: $28 to $35 per hour or $51,000 per year
Entomological Society of America
American Entomological Society