The other day I was in the basement of my office when I discovered not one, but two pith helmets hidden in the back of a dusty, abandoned cabinet. There are few things that excite an entomologist more than the discovery of a new or unique insect and a pith helmet is one of those things. It’s not something I ever envisioned being excited to find or anything I ever desired to own in my life before entomology, but as I move along in my career as an entomologist the desire to own one has increased steadily over the years. And then, just yesterday, I find two pith helmets that have never been used, waiting for me to discover them. During outreach appointments, I get the feeling that there’s nothing that the public desires to see more than an entomologist with a pith helmet. I was the same way before I started down this path. Before beginning my Master’s I always pictured entomologists as old guys with interesting mustaches, wearing lots of khakis, high socks, a pith helmet, and of course carrying a net.
Why is this? Why does everyone picture entomologists wearing these pith helmets or always carrying nets around?
But most of all… Why is that stereotype of entomologists so right?!
Well, I can’t grow a mustache, but I do carry around a net, vials, and camera almost everywhere I go and now I have a pith helmet for all of those great adventures through alfalfa, wheat, or soybean fields. However, to answer this question a little better, I can only go back to an article that I saved when I began my Master’s degree at Purdue entitled, “Grasshoppers, Termites and Lovebugs: Responsibilities of Florida Entomologists to Communicate with the Public” written and presented by Dr. James Price in the early ‘90s. This has been a treasured piece of literature and something that has compelled me to do better in this field and really communicate the needed information and promote an excitement for the field of entomology with or without a pith helmet- though it’s much more exciting with the helmet… Enjoy the read!