Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University


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Check out these books by Tom Turpin:

Flies in the face of fashion

What's Buggin You Now?





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Bug-infested office

Tom Turpin's office

I guess I have to admit it: My office is a mess! At least I’ve heard it described with that word. My wife, office secretaries, faculty colleagues, students – even my department head – all manage to include “mess” or a similar term when speaking of my office.

It is probably because I have a lot of stuff in my office. Not just stuff, but insect- related stuff – stuff that I use for teaching or stuff that I just might need some day for who knows what. After all, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

To be sure, my office has some of the requisite stuff for an office. Pictures of my wife, kids and grandkids. A plaque or two signifying a citation or an award. A desk. A computer. Some bookcases and bookshelves. A couple of file cabinets. A telephone. A clock. Two chairs – one for me, another for a guest. A microphone for recording podcasts.

It is not these rather standard office-type items that move some folks to declare my office a mess. It is the rest of the stuff, the buggy stuff that seems to be the basis for their declaration of untidiness.

I have some insect-motif wind chimes hanging from the ceiling. In fact, eight wind chimes! Now, I admit that the fan from the ventilation system doesn’t provide sufficient air movement to chime the chimes. I do sometimes accidentally bump one of the chimes and prove that they are in working order.

I do have three sets of 1950s vintage butterfly wall decorations. Each set has three butterflies, and within each set the butterflies are slightly different in design, size or color. Such butterfly trios seem to be out of style. That is why I acquired mine from antiques stores in Ohio, in Indiana and in Indonesia. My window curtains are also made of butterfly motif fabric. And who could resist having one of those diamond-shaped warning road signs? Mine says: Butterfly crossing!

Butterflies seem to the favorite insect target for designers. I have a porcelain wall butterfly, a butterfly design birdseed feeder, several magnetic butterflies that stick on my metal file cabinets and two shades on my desk lamps displaying a butterfly motif. One lamp is also designed in the shape of a butterfly. Two butterfly stained-glass sun catchers hang from my bookshelves. There is also a made-in-Italy 1971 liqueur bottle molded and painted like a butterfly.

There are several bees in the office, including a porcelain salt container for the dinner table as well as a bee-shaped honey dish. There is also a buzzy-bee pull toy for children and a set of bee Christmas tree lights, both of which were popular several decades ago. And lest I forget, I have a set of magnetic dancing bees: a windup toy acquired when I visited Australia years ago. There is also a set of four floating bee candles.

Speaking of insects of the stinging kind, I have a real bald-faced hornet nest. Most people are familiar with that basketball-sized paper nest that these hornets construct on the limb of a tree. Some folks like to hang one of these nests as a decoration in the game room of their home. An entomologist’s office would seem to be an appropriate place for such a nest!

My office is home to a handmade wren house that looks like a giant bumble bee. It must be a bit intimidating to a small, insect-eating bird to live in a giant insect home.

I also have three cricket cages, one I acquired in China, another in Africa. The third was a gift from a person who apparently didn’t think I had enough insect stuff in my office.

There are also some dragonflies in my office. One is a 2-foot metal lawn ornament, another a light switch cover, and a third is a wall-mount candleholder.

I have an umbrella with morpho butterflies adorning it and a carved-wooden replica of a Mayan mask that looks like a hornet. There is also a miniature of that iconic insect automobile – the Volkswagen bug – sitting on a bookcase!

So despite what my friends and colleagues say, I don’t think of my office as a mess. I just think of it as a rather unorganized repository of entomological knickknacks!


Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox