Entomology has never bugged this Havre de Grace freshman

December 13, 1992|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Staff Writer

You might think that a 14-year-old girl would screech when confronted with all types of bugs, but Beth Schafer holds them in her palms like they were priceless jewels.

"Just look at the beautiful iridescent colors of this caterpillar hunter," she says excitedly while pointing to an inch-long beetle-like bug she's holding -- the body shimmering in brilliant greens.

Next to the colorful bug rests a cicada killer.

"See that big stinger?" she asks. "If that gets inside of you, you're in big trouble."

PTC Granted, the bugs she's displaying are dead now. But they were alive when Beth caught them for her insect collection, which has grown to about 65 species.

The vibrant teen with big blue eyes and shoulder-length, brown hair has been catching and collecting bugs ever since she can remember.

As a little girl she was fascinated with lightning bugs, then she had an ant farm. Today, the Havre de Grace High School freshman looks for bugs wherever she goes.

"We could be driving along the Eastern Shore," says her father, Tim Schafer, "And if she spots an unusual insect, we have to stop."

Beth's keen interest in entomology -- the branch of zoology that deals with insects -- landed her an invitation to speak last Sunday at the annual convention of the Entomological Society of America, which was held at the Baltimore Convention Center.

She had been corresponding with members of the society for the past two years, receiving advice on career choices and information about insects.

And when she finally spoke Sunday before the group of more than 2,700 international scientists, any nervousness she might have felt wasn't apparent.

"Oh, my gosh, I was petrified before my speech," Beth conceded. She had to listen to someone else's speech for about an hour before it was her turn. "The closer the time came for me to speak, the more nervous I got," she said. "But once I started, I wasn't nervous at all."

Following her speech, titled "What I would like the Entomological Society to Do for Today's Youth," she participated in a panel discussion, fielding questions from many scientists.

"It was great," said Beth. "Here were all these college professors and other people with Ph.D.s asking me questions and actually listening to me.

"Beth was wonderful, she had the audience eating out of hands," said Dr. Tom Turpin, an entomologist from Purdue University and outgoing president of the society. "She was very poised, and hers was the more delightful presentation of the whole meeting."

Beth and her family stayed in Baltimore through Wednesday as guests of the society.

Back at home, Beth continues to work with her bugs, identifying and displaying them in sealed glass cases. Some of her possessions include a Horntail, a type of wasp with a very long, tail-like stinger protruding from its abdomen, and an IO Moth, a large moth with purple circles on its wings.

Much to mom, Rita Schafer's, relief, most of the bugs are dead now.

"It's getting too cold for them, so they die quickly," says Beth. She says she keeps the insects she collects in her room until they die a natural death. "I just can't kill them," she sighs.

At least now Beth keeps the bugs in jars and cages when they are alive, or between the window and screen to give them more air.

Two years ago, when she was working on an insect collection for school, she just let them breed and fly around her room, said Mrs. Schafer.

"We had to have her room exterminated once the project was completed," she said.

When Beth, an honor student, is not busy with her insect collection, she studies piano and plays the saxophone.

She also keeps an eye on her cats -- they like to sneak in her room and snack on her bugs.

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