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November 15, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 20)

Oklahoma Ugly Bug Contest

  • A nice collection of insect SEM images
  • Redundancy in species, no information beyond species names

Question: Why would anyone spend his/her time looking at so-called “ugly bugs”? Answer: Because they’re pretty cool. The Oklahoma Ugly Bug Contest is a contest for Oklahoma elementary students, allowing each school to submit an insect specimen that will subsequently be subjected to scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to produce a close-up view of the bug’s head. The resulting images are then judged and the “ugliest” are crowned the winners. The contest’s website features the SEM images for all of the applicants, so the site itself is pretty interesting for anyone who enjoys looking at highly magnified insect specimens. The website also includes a “bug prep” page that describes (in general terms) how the insects are prepared and analyzed by SEM. Site visitors can browse all of the past winners in the archive, which amounts to a fairly sizable image collection. However, there is redundancy in the species that are featured in the contest. (For instance, three of the ten winners for 2012 were antlions.)

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