Pardon my introspection

In addition to this blog, I maintain a second, older blog called Bikes, Bugs, and Bones. That snarkier, decidedly less erudite site was my first venture into the world of blogging, initiated some two and a half years ago not due to any particular vision on my part, but more as a reaction to other blogs that were popping up by people I knew in the St. Louis cycling scene. At that time, I was deeply immersed in the world of amateur bike racing, and a blog seemed to be a natural outlet for reporting my take on the races in which I participated. The title – Bikes, Bugs, and Bones – was a reflection of my propensity to be interested in too many things (with not enough time). In reality, however, my surging interest in cycling had by then pushed my longer held entomological and natural history interests to the back burner, and my posts on that blog – then and now – dealt almost exclusively with bicycles and racing. For several reasons racing was something I needed to do, and I had a good run – winning 14 races in seven years (including three state championships) and crowing it all with a highly respectable finish in the 2007 Etape du Tour (an amateur race held on the “Queen stage” route of the Tour de France). My interest in entomology and natural history never waivered during this time, but the demands of training relegated any meaningful field work to short windows before the racing season began and after it ended each year. Eventually, the entomologist in me could be suppressed no longer, and at the end of last year I decided that I needed to get back to doing what I loved – bug collecting! I made a commitment to return entomology field work to its rightful place as my first priority (after family and work, of course) and race bicycles as time permitted. (I have since completely retired from racing, although I still ride and maintain Bikes, Bugs, and Bones as an outlet for discussing all things cycling.) As an expression of that renewed commitment, I started a new blog – this blog – and after much frustration finding that every blog name I thought of had already been thought of by someone else (and generally abandoned after only a few posts) settled on the name Beetles In The Bush. One year ago today – November 24, 2007 – I posted my first entry to this new blog (a subsequent entry, a list of my publications, was backdated to November 23).

Beetles In The Bush started with a simple mission – to document my entomological and other natural history experiences and provide an outlet for the photographs that I was beginning to take. Late fall is not the best time to begin an insect blog, especially with no insect photos on hand to serve as starter material. As a result, my initial posts appeared rather infrequently – primarily whenever I had the opportunity to do a winter hike. It was those first few hikes, however, and my efforts to write something interesting about the natural history represented in the photographs that I took, that called attention to what I realized was a glaring gap in my overall knowledge of natural history. I was a competent entomologist, to be sure, but that competency did not extend to general botany (other than the mostly woody plants with which the insects I studied were associated), or to the natural communities in which those plants and insects occurred, or to the geology of the landforms that contained those natural communities, or to the manner in which these fields intersect, an understanding of which I would have to have before I could consider myself a competent natural historian. More than just an outlet for posting pictures and stories about my adventures, Beetles In The Bush also quickly became a tool to help me learn more about botany, ecology, geology, and related fields. I have read more non-entomology literature in the past year than I have since earning my degrees, and since knowledge and passion are intimately linked in a positive feedback loop, I’ve found myself becoming even more passionate about entomology, too. I still have much to learn – I am a work in progress, far from complete. But in this case, it is the journey that is also the reward.

Like all bloggers, I’d like to think that I have a large, regular following, and that over time more and more people will find my writings interesting and worthy of their time. The numbers don’t support this – as of this one-year anniversary, Beetles In The Bush has received 6,987 hits – not triffling but by no means extraordinary. While the graph below shows steady growth during the first year of existence, the numbers don’t come within a rifle’s shot of some of the really popular natural history and science blogs. I surmise the main reason for this involves a relatively lower posting frequency – a little more than once per week on average instead of the daily or near daily frequency seen with many blogs. I suppose also my relatively specialized subject matter and tendency to ramble on are contributing factors. I have thought about writing smaller, more frequent posts and expanding my subject matter to create greater interest; however, in doing this I realized that what I enjoy most is writing stories about the things that interest me – stories that teach, stories that impart a sense of the passion that I feel, stories that allow me to reflect on what I’ve learned and what I still don’t know. If that makes a broad, daily readership less likely, so be it – I understand now that I’m doing this as much for me as anyone else. So, I mark this first anniversary with a resolution to wean myself from the lure of trying to increase traffic and refocusing my efforts on doing what I enjoy most – writing silly little stories about the things I stumble upon on my journey to become a better natural historian. For the readership that I do have, I am grateful. More importantly, I am thankful for the goodly number of “friendships” that have resulted from these writings. Thank you for your interest, and I sincerely hope that some day I have the chance to meet many of you in person.

Beetles in the Bush - first year summary

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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6 Responses to Pardon my introspection

  1. Hugh says:

    One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the variety in types of posts, even within a relatively restricted category such as "nature blogs." I read my blog list as if I were browsing the latest issue of a magazine. I go to some for a quick update, a neat photo, maybe a laugh. Others are much meatier, full of information and often also with neat pictures (such as yours).

    "Rules? There are no rules in a knife fight." (From Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.) Same goes for blogging. Mostly.

    Glad to have met you.

  2. Emily says:

    It’s grand that people like yourself are willing to share their experiences through blogs.

    The longer I stick with this blog, the more I appreciate the detail of the posts. I’m newish to the natural history thing – and have definitely found entomology, impossibly multifarious as it is, to be a gateway drug to the wider world of needing to know what absolutely everything is. So your approach works well for me.

    And that’s my de-lurking for the day.

  3. myrmecos says:

    Congratulations on your blogiversary, Ted! I’ve really enjoyed the effort you put in to your writings.

  4. cedrorum says:

    I’ve been writing for almost 2 years and don’t have a huge following either. I’ve learned that that is okay. Also, the bigger your blog readership gets, the more problems you start having with trolls and such. So, be careful what you wish for in blog land. Have you ever thought of posting your longer posts in shorter “chapters” or different parts. I’ve done this on a few occasions when I felt my readers wouldn’t have the time to read the whole post in one setting. Let’s face it, many of us read blogs at work during lunch or breaks. Lacking myself in knowledge of entomology I find your posts very informative. Although, I will admit I sometimes don’t finish them in one sitting. I could probably do that more often if it weren’t for the 5 and 8 year old pulling me away :)

  5. Ted says:

    Thanks, everyone, for the words of encouragement.

    Hugh – Yes, I get what you mean about picking and choosing from the blog list depending on what you feel like reading. Yours, however, always gets an immediate click when I see it has been updated.

    Emily – I appreciate you de-lurking for a moment to leave a comment. It’s nice to know there’s additional appreciation out there that’s not always apparent.

    Alex – I’m honored that such a capable photographer finds my post worthy of a glance.

    cedrorum – good idea, and that’s basically what I did with my recent tiger beetle trip (can you imagine if I waited and did one write up on the whole thing?!). Some ‘review’ type posts, such as Glades of Jefferson County and Loess Hills of Missouri are hard to break up, though – there’s a continuity that, I think, reads best as a single piece.

    But you’re right, wishing for a large following can bring on unanticipated problems. I know what I like, and apparently so do others, and as long as we find each other it doesn’t matter what the numbers are.

    regards all — ted

  6. membracid says:

    I am very glad you started blogging! It’s more of a working entomologist’s blog than mine.

    Besides, blogging should be as much about writing for you as for any hypothetical audience :)

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