Out of the Blue

Close Encounters of the Bug Kind


forestHow do you discover a new insect? Turn on a light—a really bright one—in a place entomologists have never explored. That’s what biology professor Michael F. Whiting (BS ’90) did this summer in the lowland forests of Papua New Guinea. Standing in a mercury vapor light trap, Whiting picked insects off a specially designed sheet. On a trip funded in part by the National Science Foundation, he and 14 other BYU and BYU–Hawaii researchers spent three weeks searching for specimens of beetles, grasshoppers, katydids, and an entirely new insect order related to termites, mantids, and cockroaches. They returned with at least one specimen of the new order, and examination of the 25,000 other insects they collected is likely to turn up more. “I’m certain we brought back hundreds of new insect species,” says Whiting.