Wildlife

Chasing the Golden Snitch

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For some, it’s already after bedtime. Not so Purdue entomologist Jeff Holland, who’s led a small crew from Base Camp out to hunt for moths, midges, and other nocturnal flying bugs with the aid of a long net on a pole and a blinding light, brought in to illuminate the grounds.

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My colleague Mark Christmas cranks the light down, so it’s pointed straight up at the dark sky instead of out across the dunes. A blizzard of white dots fills the air above the light, brilliant in its beam against the inky sky. Once in awhile, a larger dot—a really big moth—arcs through the beam.

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“Get the big one!” says Mark.

Holland brandishes the net, waits for his moment, and then scoops the air like a competitor in a frenzied lacrosse match. Possibly Quidditch.

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The “big one” proves as elusive as Harry Potter‘s Golden Snitch. Holland scores several small midges, and a small moth. The large one taunts us with occasional turns in the light.

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Finally, we call it a night, and Holland heads back to the Inventory Tent to identify what he’s been able to capture. Only later, looking at my photos, do I discover the large moth had perched insouciantly on Holland’s net during the stakeout.

Photographs by Ford Cochran

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