A guest blog by Arlo Pelegrin
Many people wonder when they see abug: Will it sting? Is it dangerous? I’ve never seen it before!
When confronted with an unfamiliar,many-legged creature in or near the home, people all over the world can nowpoint a phone at it and capture a decent image. Then they can post the image on Reddit’s whatsthisbug, a non-profit site, and our growing team of experts will quickly provide identification and information. The vast majority of submissions are benign critters that cohabit cities and towns, and our readers are often relieved by the news.
Our 37000 readers do not merely provide excellent identifications, they promote an atmosphere of scientific curiosity,fascination, and general appreciation of the arthropods. The community stands firmly against language that promotes fear or disgust toward the natural world,and consistently encourages participation from people who are uncomfortable around bugs or spiders.
Many of our readers are introducing themselves to entomology via the internet, and use the identification forum as a “practice ground” for their growing skills. Sometimes participants post IDchallenges (first image) to keep everybody on their feet.
Submissions often contain fascinating and unique content. Two of our users have probably found undescribed species, agall-midge in Costa Rica (second image) and an aquatic wasp in Texas. (http://bugguide.net/node/view/1063393)One submission from Peru went viral: the small silken spires encrusting tree trunks. It was later identified as a spider’s egg-protecting structure and was featured in National Geographic. (http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/06/what-created-this-mysterious-picket-fence-in-the-amazon/)
There are still a surprising number of people who feel very strongly against insects and spiders. We hear from these folks almost daily, and do our best to bring people to a greater understanding of the natural world. It is an uphill battle, but we regularly hear from readers whose outlook has been completely turned around by participation on our site.