Diving into Aquatic Beetles
with Dr. Jiri Hulcr
When you think of an aquarium, you don’t usually think of aquatic beetles. My guest today, Dr. Jiri Hulcr, Assistant Professor of Forest Entomology at the University of Florida, and long time aquatic beetle hobbyist, however, thinks people have things all wrong. He says that beetles are much more interesting than fish! So why is a forest insect expert such a big bug lover? Join us, as we learn more about keeping aquatic beetles from entomologist Jiri Hulcr.
Dr. Jiri Hulcr is Assistant Professor of Forest Entomology in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida/IFAS, loves aquatic insects - and hates fish- because they turn his insects into fish food. “These frantic, big-eyed and little-brained, nervous larvae of higher vertebrates eat their way through the species-rich, mini-rainforests of ponds and puddles, leaving little but murky water and algal blooms.” That is why Jiri used to devote irrational numbers of hours to feeding fairy shrimp to newborn diving beetle larvae (and at the same time, that is why he hates fish [!])
Jiri did not become interested in aquarium life- he was born that way. For years, since childhood, he has been throwing random organisms from their native puddles and ponds into glass jars. Watching a tiny diving beetle do nothing but breathing his bubble for half an hour has always had a hypnotizing effect. With fascination he watched miniature aquatic creatures being captured by slightly larger aquatic creatures in many aquariums, buckets and old sinks during his early years in a tiny rural village in the Czech Republic. He wanted to see how they live, their morphology and colors up close, but ultimately, he attributes his interest to an innate instinctual need to look into green water.
These days, even though Jiri spends most of his time working out of the water in the critically important field of Forest Entomology (a field that is solving the world’s problems one bark beetle at a time) he still carries an aquatic net in his car. He stops on his way to the Gainesville airport and while steering into the roadside puddles, watching tiny crustaceans swirl around. To Jiri, the green, squiggly, bubbly, multi-legged denizens of puddles occupy a foreign dimension that we, human observers, never really understand.
Jiri and his wife, also an entomologist, have very similar feelings about this issue. After purchasing property in Florida, they quickly removed the grass carp from their pond, to make way for a small aquatic paradise with many shades of green, incredible prehistoric-like bugs arriving to lights at night, and a chorus of nine species of frogs. The only species of fish that remains is the killifish, which is so small and shy that it may as well be considered an invertebrate.