Bug Camp 2021

Among the various activities, students were encouraged to start their own insect collections.

Reto Agrícola 4-H, a program under the Agricultural Extension Service of Puerto Rico, celebrated its second cohort of its annual Bug Camp, in which teenage students participated in a four-day program to learn about different areas of study.

Edda Martínez, an entomologist and coordinator for the program, explained that this year they focused on different insect-oriented careers. Specifically, 21 students islandwide ages 15 to 18 participated in virtual lessons with a hands-on approach to taxonomy, beekeeping, entomology and even entomophagy, which revolves around the consumption of bugs as a rich source of nutrients.

“They were given materials to make the entomology box, to do all the beekeeping workshops... and they were given everything from the deli pack (of bug foods), and a video made by 4-H where they made brownies and cupcakes with cricket flour,” Martínez explained.

The Entomological Society of America estimates that 7,000 Americans work as professional entomologists in the U.S. mainland, which includes teaching about insects at the undergraduate and graduate level; working as extension entomologists; raising bees; working in forensics; enforcing quarantines and regulations; controlling insects; consulting on integrated pest management topics; and conducting research on taxonomy, biology, ecology, behavior and control.

The Economic Research Institute estimates the average annual salary for entomologists in Puerto Rico at $55,084, with the potential to grow to $63,858 in 2026. However, according to Martínez, there are no forensic entomologists in Puerto Rico because the students who decide to specialize in this field study abroad and do not return to the island. Bug Camp’s goal is to instill the importance and ecological roles of insects in ecosystems and to humanity, while exposing 4-H youth to other alternatives of study with aims to foster professionals in diverse entomological fields, including forensics.

Jafet Santos, a 16-year-old resident of Guánica who participated in Bug Camp, affirmed that he had no prior interest in insects or entomology, but that the experience made him reconsider his professional goals. “We learned about different careers and I think that is very important because… sometimes we don’t see all the opportunities there are in different fields,” Santos said, noting that he would like to develop his career on the island. He added that entomology “is a fascinating field and what I like is that there are few discovered insects and many left to know, which encourages me to discover a new insect.”

Throughout the camp, he and other participants developed a collection of 20 bugs where the five most common classifications were represented, with materials donated by Cortejo Agriscience. Fellow student Diego K. Gómez, a 17-year-old from Caguas, was actually keenly interested in insects before participating in the program, and now wants to contribute locally to the field of entomology.

“The idea of the camp is to change the perspective that young people have of insects - that they are all pests, that they are undesirable. So, we go through the activities related to entomology, even working on the phobias that some of the youth have towards insects,” Martínez said.

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