Chasing the Golden Snitch


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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