Sweat beaded on his forehead, 13-year-old Andy Frevert crouches under a bush, poking through leaf litter, green eyes searching intently. Aha! He holds up a luna moth wing. It's in crummy condition, but it's a promising sign. Where you find moths, he says, you will also find beetles.
Andy is a fledgling collector. He's among the distinct minority of folks who just can't wait for the whirring of tiny wings. He's mucking around near a large parking lot light, the kind of nightspot bugs can't resist.
So far, no beetles. But wait:
"What was that?" he snaps to attention. "Did you hear it?" Those zzzzzzs may not belong to a bumble-bee. Instead, they may indicate the presence of a green June beetle. He's been looking for one all week. June beetles feed on foliage by night and tend to hide by day. The last one he saw had been hit by a car, he says, and wouldn't look so great in his collector's case.
The eighth-grader has brought part of his collection with him to the Meadowside Nature Center in Rockville, a favorite collecting spot. He has also brought a butterfly net and his favorite beetle book. "I read bug books all the time," he explains.
After exhausting the grounds near the nature center, the collector heads down to a small pond. Damsel flies and dragonflies skim through the milky film of heat. Andy points out raccoon prints in the mud, sweeps the reeds and nets a red milkweed beetle that makes a hissing sound. These beetles hide under the leaves during the day so that birds can't find them, he says. He also points out a little grasshopper and a red admiral butterfly.
But no green June beetle.
"My favorite's the Mexico Rhino beetle; it just looks very cool. That, and the Minotaur beetle, which has three horns and looks somewhat like the ox beetle except its body is a little more stout."
Andy's own best catch is the shiny rhino beetle he got last year when he was at nature camp in West Virginia. When a fellow camper discovered the large scary insect clinging to the window screen next to his bunk, he started yelling. But not as much as Andy did when he recognized the beetle he'd been longing for. His collector's case also holds a grapevine beetle from his back yard in Garrett Park, a click beetle, a tiger beetle and the dung beetle he captured by poking a hole in cow dung and setting a trap.
Although Andy considers himself a beetle man, he's not above finding inspiration elsewhere. As he wanders through a grove of trees, he suddenly stops dead in his tracks, staring at something right above his nose. "We've got something very cool here," he announces. "Come check out this spider."