Confessions of an Entomological Hit Man

 

Most assassins work alone. But we’re a pair of hired guns. Between us, we have 50 years of experience making hits in dozens of countries on five continents. Our partnership began 13 years ago, and since then our views of the world have slowly converged. Compared to most people, our thoughts are a bit twisted. But killing will do that. For us to take a contract, we demand two things. The mark should have it coming, and the hit has to be made without unnecessary harm to innocent bystanders. 

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. AND A. V. LATCHINISKY. 2008. CONFESSIONS OF AN ENTOMOLOGICAL HITMAN. CONSERVATION MAGAZINE, JULY‑SEPTEMBER, 15-19.

Voices of the Past

 

In a course I took once on comparative religions, I learned that the Jains renounce shoes (some even go naked) to avoid harming other living creatures as they walk. This sounded a bit extreme but plausible, given my exotic and romantic images of India. Many years later, I met a Jain who was on the engineering faculty at the University of Wyoming. He was a very soft-spoken and gentle fellow. But he wore shoes. He explained that the strictest form of Jainism was practiced by monks, some of whom also swept the ground in front of them as they made their way from village to village so as to further diminish the chances of crushing insects or spiders.

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. 2001. VOICES FROM THE PAST: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN LOCUST. AMER. ENTOMOL. 47: 208-215.

Creatures

Butterfly Kiss-Off

 

A schools reopen, teachers around the country are planning a child-pleasing science activity: raising butterflies. Butterfly kits let teachers demonstrate a basic biological phenomenon as caterpillars transform themselves into painted lady butterflies that can be freed to complete their lives in a nearby field. The students learn that metamorphosis is marvelous, insects are engaging and releasing living things is virtuous. Wonder, beauty and goodness — who could object?

 

The Orgy in Your Backyard

 

The exuberance of new life in spring. Lots of new life. Twenty-two megatons of new life. Like an entomological Halley's comet, every 17 years an astonishing population of periodical cicadas, Brood X, emerges in the greatest regular outpouring of insect life on the planet.

 

New York Times Editorials

Gaia for Guys

 

Here’s a pronouncement that unites Joe-the-Plumber, Joe-the-CEO and me: “Depending on what we find during surgery, we’ll remove your testicle.” That’s how my urologist explained the need for an abdominal incision as I fidgeted on the crinkly white paper covering the exam table. Why “we” (I presumed this would be him and somebody else, as I’d be unconscious) would find this approach preferable to slicing through my scrotum was not clear. The latter route seemed obvious to the guy who did my vasectomy and to the vet who fixed our cat.

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. 2010. GAIA FOR GUYS. THE TRUMPETER (JOURNAL OF ECOSOPHY) 26: 3-10.

To Be Honest

 

My job is to kill. But I usually describe it euphemistically as "applied ecology" or "pest management". As an entomologist on the faculty of the University of Wyoming's College of Agricultures, I work to develop new and better methods of managing grasshopper outbreaks that would otherwise devestate the western ranchlands that ranchers depend on to feed their livestock. While agriculture brings forth life, entomology is largely premised on taking life.

 

I flatter myself that I make substantial contributions to science by refining the use of insecticides. But the bottom line is that I am an assassin: my job is to extinguish life.

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. 2001. TO BE HONEST. ORION. SUMMER: 66-73.

People

Pace Yourself

 

My “secret” pleasure in coming to Cape Cod as a nature writer was sneaking out of our idyllic setting in a quaint shack set amid the dunes to watch a baseball game. I’m a fantasy baseball owner, which is a bit like admitting that one used to play Dungeons and Dragons. (I did not, for the record). As for live baseball in my hometown, Laramie has a college summer league team—but nothing compares to the legendary Cape Cod League, enchantingly described in Jim Collins’s The Last Best League. This is pure baseball, as unadulterated as sand, beach grass, and plovers. 

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. 2014. PACE YOURSELF: THE VIRTUES OF BALLPARKS AND BEACHES, CONSERVATION MAGAZINE, SUMMER, 45-47.

Naked Soul

 

In a course I took once on comparative religions, I learned that the Jains renounce shoes (some even go naked) to avoid harming other living creatures as they walk. This sounded a bit extreme but plausible, given my exotic and romantic images of India. Many years later, I met a Jain who was on the engineering faculty at the University of Wyoming. He was a very soft-spoken and gentle fellow. But he wore shoes. He explained that the strictest form of Jainism was practiced by monks, some of whom also swept the ground in front of them as they made their way from village to village so as to further diminish the chances of crushing insects or spiders. 

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. 2007. NAKED SOLE. CONSERVATION MAGAZINE, 8 (JULY-SEPT): 5-6.

Adaptation and Defiance

 

The forests of the west are preternaturally red. Not the red of spilled blood or stop signs. Rather, a post-industrial, city-grimed, rusty red. Having succumbed to the onslaught of bark beetles, the trees are like corpses, disturbing in the recentness of death. Within a few years, however, the red needles fall and the forests fade into a forlorn gray as life dissolves into leftovers. By the time a sun-bleached tree comes to resemble the chalky bones of a deer, the beetles have long since moved on—and we have

become resigned to death. The bark beetles are native to the West and their outbreaks are familiar. What’s worrisome now is the scale. 

 

LOCKWOOD, J. A. 2013. ADAPTATION AND DEFIANCE: DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THE WARM FUTURE. UU WORLD MAGAZINE, 27: 20-25.

Places