The True Bugs of French Polynesia
A rainbow arcs over Opunohu Bay shortly after an afternoon shower on Moorea Island.
We get in the habit of calling every critter that fits under our shoe a bug, but there are a group of insects that are the real, or true bugs. Beetles, flies, and bees are all insects but not bugs, while critters like stinkbugs and bed bugs are true bugs. All true bugs have wings that are part colored and part clear, and a long snout, like a straw, that they use for drinking and eating.
In my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, I studied a group of true bugs known as plant bugs, in the genus Pseudoloxops. These bugs are native to the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and have accidentally shown up in Europe and North America. They're pleasant little guys, often brightly colored with shades of green, yellow, and red. I focused on studying the species that live in Tahiti, also known as French Polynesia (Tahiti is one of 118 islands in FP). In the course of my studies, I discovered 20 new species, which I am now in the process of describing and naming.
If you want to check out my dissertation (lots of good pictures!), click the link below:
Mt. Rotui, Moorea, one of the peaks I climbed in pursuit of plant bugs.
Peeling back flowers looking for plant bugs along the shoreline of Moorea.
On an expedition to the uninhabited island of Mehetia, our boat didn't show up as planned, stranding us for several days. I prayed to this goat skull for a quick rescue, and shortly afterward, my prayers were answered.