Professional vs Amateur
A photograph of a Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta).
So, what is the difference between an amateur and a professional entomologist?
Professional entomologists do it for the money!
Professional entomologists are employed to study insects for a specific purpose.
Governments and commercial companies employ agricultural and forestry entomologists to study insects that are important to man. For example, insects that pollinate crops need to be conserved, whilst those that eat crops need to be controlled.
Governments and universities employ medical and veterinary entomologists to study insects that cause disease in man and animals. Controlling insect vectors of disease can have a major impact on human health.
Academic entomologists study insect physiology, biochemistry, ecology and evolution, and publish findings about how insects interact with natural communities.
Entomologists in universities and museums study insect systematics and taxonomy - they try to describe and classify the millions of different species of insects there are in the world.
Entomologists in universities, research establishments and consultancies are actively involved in the conservation of insect diversity.
Field entomologists in conservation organisations monitor and record insects on their sites and study the effect of weather, global warming and the effectiveness of conservation work.
Entomologists in universities use insects as tools to study biological phenomena, such as genetics and neurophysiology.
Amateur entomologists do it for fun!
Entomology is the ultimate hobby. Insects are everywhere, and amateur entomologists can interact with them to whatever extent they choose.
Amateurs range from young children beginning to notice the fascination of the natural world; professional scientists following their own interests in their spare time; or ever-young octogenarians, fascinated by the patterns of leaf mines (patterns made by moth caterpillars eating the plant cells between the upper and lower surfaces of a leaf) on trees in their gardens and wanting to find out about the insects that made them.
As an entomologist, you might decide to perform careful scientific observations and experiments. Your hobby could then take you to university libraries, learned societies and to the four corners of the globe.
Or you might decide to simply 'chill out' and enjoy nature; watch the creatures in the undergrowth in your garden, or the local park. And if you don't have a garden - flowerpots! Or simply choose to stay in your favourite armchair and read about insects.
Whatever route you choose, be warned - entomology can be addictive! Many people who have dabbled as children have ended up hopelessly addicted to this all-absorbing subject for their entire lives!
Next: Role of the Amateur