Courtesy of VPM

Bugs are this Spider’s business

November 28, 2022

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

Art Evans has been obsessed with bugs for as long as he can remember.

“Since my days as a young teenager growing up on the fringes of the Mojave Desert in Southern California, sharing my passion for insects has always given me enormous satisfaction,” said Evans, a longtime adjunct biology professor at UR. “With more than 1.5 million species known to science, insects represent the largest group of animals on Earth. Their bodies, behaviors, physiologies, and interactions wrought over the course of evolution provide an endless supply of fascinating stories to tell.

The entomologist got his start as the Insect Zoo Director at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in 1989, where he fell in love with telling people about bugs. His personal favorite, the beetle, has been of particular interest for decades.

“I'm a beetle guy,” Evans said. “They're not much to look at, but that's where all the action is.”

He said he’s fascinated by everyday beetles, often called June bugs, because there are so many different types, serving crucial purposes in the ecosystem. They chew up old roots to make nutrients, and they’re an important food source for bigger bugs.

The presentations he used to share in museums quickly turned into interactive lectures in the classroom. In the early 2000s he moved to the East Coast and began teaching entomology. He’s been an instructor at the University of Richmond for more than a decade.

“Bugs opened up a world for me that was always there,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid, I could just step out and I would be instantly transported to a world of fantastic organisms that are in your backyard. I was also the kid that was putting them in jars and inviting my friends over and doing little impromptu presentations about the bugs I found. I've been doing more or less what I'm doing now for a long time.”

Evans often describes bugs as creatures who are simply going about their business while humans get in the way, rather than the other way around. His insights into the insect world became the inspiration for a radio segment, titled What’s Bugging You? which aired on radio stations across Virginia for nearly a decade until 2019. 

“The show provided me the opportunity to tell some of these stories to a broad audience with varying backgrounds and interest levels,” he said. “At once familiar yet seemingly alien, insects are the perfect ambassadors for environmental awareness and engaging people of all ages with the natural world.