- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2000

I have come to appreciate the insect in much the same way that one enjoys a Peter Max painting. Be it a praying mantis (Carolina mantid) climbing up my arm or a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) gracing my garden, these creatures come in a spectacular variety of colors and sizes.
Scientists estimate that insects represent 75 percent of the 30 million named animal species in the world. For those looking to investigate these miniature works of art, the Internet offers a great starting point for a often-overlooked adventure.

Bugbios

Site address: www.bugbios.com.

Creator:

Dexter Sear of IO Vision (iovision.com), an interactive media design and development company on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, is the sole researcher, designer and producer of the site, which was released in January 1996.

Creator quotable:

"I created the Web site as a creative expression of my enthusiasm towards this group of animals, which provide endless inspiration in color, pattern and form," Mr. Sear says.
"My goal is to promote insect appreciation by assisting people who possess a spark of curiosity towards the insect realm with a diverse Web site featuring insect macrophotography and articles on cultural entomology."

Word from the Webwise:

One man's subtle obsession has given birth to a stunning site, highlighting a wondrous microcosm of alien-looking creatures. From his travels to California, Brazil and Ecuador and around his home island, Mr. Sear has populated the site's pages with nearly 100 photographs of his favorite beings.
I had a hard time classifying Bugbios. It could be called a virtual art book filled with natural beauty, but junior entomologists will love the scattering of facts and information.
The site's Entophile section maneuvers viewers through pages filled with Mr. Sear's expertise and images. After perusing areas featuring dragonflies, ants, bees and straight-snouted weevils, I decided to explore the true bugs, or Hemiptera (meaning half-wings). Ten true bugs are presented in this area, which features creatures with sucking mouth parts originating from the tips of their heads (a nightmare in the making).
While on my journey, I learned that the assassin bug injects its victims with a lethal toxin that dissolves its tissue. A click on the photographic-enlargement button showed a close-up of this strange-looking insect.
Another major section of the site may not exactly thrill younger viewers, but it will have the hard-core bug lover entranced. The Cedigest warehouses previous issues of Mr. Sear's other passion, the e-zine Cultural Entomology Digest.
The publication studies the reasons, beliefs and symbolism behind the inclusion of insects within all facets of the humanities. Readers are immersed in articles ranging from "Beetles as Religious Symbols" to the "Greek Cricket Cage" to "Cicada in Chinese Folklore," written from the academic point of view and culled from sources around the world.
Mr. Sear has produced only four issues since 1993, but each contains loads of information. The average reader will appreciate a pretty illustration by Ch'i Pai Shih (1863-1957), the premier Chinese painter of insects, while college students will revel in a look into public sentiments regarding invertebrates by Steve Kellert of Yale University.

Ease of use:

Bugbios looks marvelous and loads quickly on even the pokiest of modem connections. I would have enjoyed more general information on insects, but considering the incredible art-museum-like atmosphere permeating the site, I was not disappointed.

Don't miss:

Mr. Sear has put together a neat educational module on butterfly wing patterns in the Class: Insecta section. From six large graphics surrounded by text, students learn about wing structures, design analysis, pattern formation and adaptational benefits of the fritillaries, coppers, monarchs, painted ladies, sulfurs, and owl butterflies. Each graphic of these beautiful creatures is a stand-alone work of art.

Family activity:

I concur with Mr. Sear that a great activity is to plunk oneself down in just about any location and look at the miniature world all around. He says that "it provides great illustrations of how life functions on many levels."
Mr. Sear also has a spot on his site explaining the best ways to photograph insects and what equipment should provide the best results.

Cybersitter synopsis:

People in high school and older will value the scope of Mr. Sear's presentations. Lots of multisyllabic words pepper the site and are not always clearly defined, but younger children still will find the diverse and colorful photographs a captivating way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy day.
Family fun factor: 70 percent.

Overall grade: B (for beautiful).

Remember: Information on the Internet is changing constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to (joseph@twtmail.com).

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