OTAM – Old Time Arts and Music
Bug Club

The history of bug club.

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My reverence for bugs began at the age of 4 in Hawaii, where I told my mother that I had found a “mus-tahd” bug… named so, for when you “squished” it… “ mus-tahd” came out. 

In 6th grade, I sacrificed hefty grasshoppers in Fort Leavenworth to my toad, Toby… who later fell victim to my rat, Cough Drop… An early lesson in the dog eats dog world and food chain of nature…

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I here report publicly, of the accidental, even well intentioned murder of a praying mantis I found in the back yard in Virginia…. I was an accessory in the murder,,, being so besotted with my friends that I reasoned this mantis would also enjoy the friend that I had already caged… the next morning, I found only one. 

Still not having learned, I murdered again… a darling caterpillar found in Florida when I was 16…. Selfishly hoping to watch her metamorphosis, I trapped her in a jar, and left it in my room…

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Months later, hoping that now, ON MY TIME TABLE, the mystery would happen, presumably RIGHT THEN... Instead, a dead moth lay at the bottom of the jar and again I was puzzled… and actually thought that the moth had ENTERED the jar and eaten my caterpillar. My friend, Ray Seijas set me straight, and even made a dialogue of what might have happened the day of the moth’s death.

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I could have been standing in front of the mirror, combing my hair as 6 hopeful fists beat against the glass...

“Ok, lady, ok... I played your game... now let me out, I have to fly and eat… hey lady... over here!”

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Many murders later… I volunteered at the Insect Zoo at the Natural History Museum in Washington DC…. I realized that I didn’t know about healthy normal children... and somehow figured that since I would be working with children AND bugs…. I could (there is that word again), kill two birds with one stone...

I loved the arthropod zoo… I loved the animals….I especially loved the clever and daunting McLeay’s Spectre..... Master of disguise… too big, lumpy and mottled... sort of like me

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Sheila Muchler guided me proudly through this small kingdom.

One exhibit called most of the Insect Zoo staff away from the zoo… There was an exhibit downstairs about how many cockroaches could fill a kitchen if left unchecked… and dead cockroaches were to be glued through out the exhibit of a kitchen... Since I was pregnant… we felt the glue might hurt the baby... and instead, that day, I got to play with the live cockroaches.

We kept a female orange kneed tarantula in the front exhibit…. She was bald... and as the riotous and exhbitionistically anxious school kids grappled around the case… shrieking and hoping others saw their sensitivity… I would explain that she was afraid... that she was small and they were not... and that when they rapped on the glass… it scared her and her response was to freeze, and then kick mildly stinging hairs at the possible predator, and that if she was REALLY scared.. She would rear up on her legs and hope to threaten, and only then would she pounce… Some of them got it…

When they held the horn worms in their hands, we told them that the droppings were “used food”... some of them got it…

After I had the baby, I would come back once a week... to help show the kids the bugs... and one morning we were all charmed with the arrival of dozens of baby mantises who had hatched in the mantid exhibit… remembering my earlier loss (see above) we moved the mothers out of the cage so that the babies would survive. As I did this, my milk let down, with subliminal identification with the mothers.

One day… an elderly man stopped me …. He said

“We have come here from far away… my grandchildren are coming down the hall, with a jar with two millipedes that they found in the backyard… They want to show them to you and talk about them… but I have just seen your giant millipedes here, and they will be disappointed that theirs are so small... could you please make a fuss over them?”

Sheila said we could keep them… so soon… there came two little goobers, nervous and stunned by what they had seen in the cabinet…and obviously having second thoughts…. Thanks to the loving grandfather I could say

“What? You have some millipedes? Well, yes, they are great…. But we already HAVE big millipedes…. However, we really could only use some small ones if you had any….. “

And thanks to that loving grandfather… the children were able to feel delight and relief and pride as their additions to our zoo were put in the nature exhibit…

And this is what should occur for every child in the world… and we are in charge of making sure that this can happen.

I had foolishly not believed that I could pass zoology in University so never did become an etymologist…… this fear, plus the fact that I had fainted and cried when my lab rat that I had been training in the Skinner box bit me…. My professor, Professor Bill Bellingham, looked down at the floor and gently told me “You are too soft hearted to major in Physiological Psychology… I am sorry... you will have to major in Clinical Psychology… thus; I was banished, kindly …

So, years later… in Maryland…. With my friend Posie, who was then 3… we began our search for doodle bugs… in the leaves on her steps…. And then drew bugs and other things on her bricks…and did expeditions and talked… and then with Levi… decided to have a bug club…..

We kindly included their parents….. And soon had a chapter in Maryland and one in Pennsylvania… then luminous and inspired Aunt Mary and the wonderful Jake began the Brooklyn chapter…..

Charles Darwin (flea repository chief) attended every meeting he could… we voted in Tony and Ken and Zack and Nora.

This precious crew..
Many are called and few are chosen...

Bug Club began as a fun and easy way to become aware of bugs ( and ‘bug cousins’ or arthropods) and have a hilarious excuse to hang out and learn. Our first focus was scavenging for doodlebugs on the steps of Veu de L’eau Street.

Though meetings continue to be quixotic and irregular.. the same themes prevail.

Each meeting there is some art work regarding bugs…. In Cambridge, we made bug stickers and decorated bug boxes, In Brooklyn we baked bug sculpy, in Philadelphia we used pipe cleaners and glue.

Food is always served. Though we decided to forego the smorgasbord mentality as it was a bit distracting in meetings, most snacks are bug related - such as bug juice, apples and honey, candy bugs, gummy worms, birthday cakes with bug decorations, cup cakes made of dirt with worms in them.

The music division always provides music. Our club song is THE ANTS GO MARCHING, but we have listened to bug cds, created bug music, sung bug songs…. Our favorites are the Beetles.

One meeting we preformed a spirited TARANTELLA, accompanied by Italian Folk music of ancient Tarantellas. This dance was way to remove tarantula poison from your body.

Video wise we have watched MICROCOSIM, A BUGS LIFE, WINSOR MCKAY”S BUG VAUDEVILLE and at our next meeting, hope to view Tyler Kinney’s documentary about the Insectarium in Philadelphia.

We have accouterments such as bug cards, bug plates, napkins and table clothes, bug candles

(Thanks to our Denver Outreach Chapter), bug key chains (ditto… brought from Africa), bug stickers, bug stamps, bug calendars (thanks to Ms Mary... The Queen of our Brooklyn chapter), bug puppets, bug puzzles,

Our bug book library is growing, as are jokes and comics about bugs.
Meeting activities

We have read Calvin and Hobbes Bugs Comics. Lynda J Barry Bug Comics, Peanuts Bug Comics, Sunday bug comics

Readings of:
Archie and Mehitabel.
AA Milne and Alexander Beetle
And our grand Ozmas original poems about Spiders ( Who are bug cousins)

Our spiritual leader, other than our own Chaplin ( Kid Thornton) is Nat Tick Hahn.

Voted in as a residual member: Bugs Bunny
Club Motto: Bugs Not Drugs

Another important part of bug club is the exchanging to goodies… a solemn ritual fraught with subterranean club meaning.

We have scoured the world for bugs. We have photos of new bug friends from Japan (a TRUE Japanese beetle), Scotland (three different colored bees there with different colored bottoms!) the magnificent black slug of Scotland (see photos) Spain, and Bermuda.

We discussed cicadas and are awaiting their return, camel crickets, Chitin as a covering, Metamorphosis (as it applies to humans and as their bodies change), crabs, (another bug cousin) and doodle bugs (an early favorite).

Some of our more mature members have beautiful Caddis Fly necklaces and we all have bug t-shirts, bug socks and bug hair clips.

We had one successful field trip, but cancelled subsequent trips due to tussling in the back seat.
Our field trip to DC was cancelled due to parking difficulties and is to be rescheduled.
Our attempts to get to France have been thwarted due to financial constraints.
Meeting Discussions

Many meetings have led to heartfelt and touching , though intellectually enlightening discussions of such topics as...

- underpants
- Tell boys to ‘ bug off”
- How we grow up “ Our own kind of metamorphosis with a touch of object constancy theory)
- How to share power( we rotate group leaders)
- How to love even love-challenged bugs such as camel crickets, mosquitoes, fleas, spiders, etc.
-The dangers of bug sprays

We are fans to two particular bug type web pages.
and http://dougtheslug.com

We hope to continue to film meetings and make forays into YOUTUBE and are always willing to hear of others interests in bugs.

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