The mystery of the bug at the Arkansas Walmart

The mystery of the bug at the Arkansas Walmart

About the chapter

In 2012, while visiting a Walmart in Arkansas, a researcher from Penn State University’s Insect Identification Laboratory plucked a large insect from the supermarket’s exterior wall. It looked like a dragonfly, but according to the researcher it must be an ant lion. With that label, the winged insect ended up in his personal collection.

Years later, in 2020, the same researcher gave an online lecture on insect biodiversity from home. Students looked at insects from his collection under microscopes borrowed from their own homes. When it was the walmart ant lion’s turn, the researcher began to describe the animal’s characteristics when he suddenly stopped talking.

Then the entire student body saw why. It is not an ant lion. This is a very rare giant lacewing from the netwing family. Many of them were once found in North America, but in the 1950s the species disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Now suddenly there was one under a microscope. An insect from the Jurassic period of geology, which began about 200 million years ago.

It was an unforgettable lesson for both students and researchers. The animal was carefully described and transported to a museum where it is available for research. Because there are still so many questions. For example, what does it say that this animal suddenly reappears after half a century?

Read more about the research here: Rare insect found in Arkansas Walmart makes history, sparks mystery.

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