Insect Appreciation Facebook Group Started by an Indiana Photographer Nears 100,000 Members
All Bugs Go to Kevin
Whether the thought of holding a tarantula in your hand excites you or makes your skin crawl, the Facebook group, All Bugs Go To Kevin, has something for you.
From posts asking questions about insect identification or looking for knowledge to ones sharing beautiful photography that will make you think of earth's smallest creatures a little differently, the All Bugs Go Kevin page is both interesting and educational.
As its description says:
We want members to try to find something beautiful and awe-inspiring in each creature they see while hopefully learning more about them in the process. Seeing these creatures in a different light while adding education to better understand them is a great start to dispelling fear.
With 92k followers and counting, it's hard to imagine that this platform almost didn't happen. Kevin Wiener, the group's creator, was originally hesitant to start the page despite the persistence of people who enjoyed his photography. With encouragement from a co-worker and the name for the page from his friend, Kevin was convinced to begin the group that would later reach people all over the world.
"There were a lot of people who enjoyed my photography, but they also enjoyed that I included educational content with my photography."
In fact, before he bought his camera, Kevin got his start in the Facebook world by writing insect-related posts in a different Facebook group, IN Nature.
"I started doing educational posts before I got my camera because I didn’t see anyone there that knew a lot about entomology, and it helped me build my confidence."
From Pest Control to Bug Expert
Before the success of the Facebook group, Kevin's background with insects actually began with his work in pest control. As a pest control technician for 12 years, Kevin encountered a wide variety of different insects. In fact, most people would never guess that he used to have his own fears.
"I was not a fan of spiders, stinging insects freak me out, centipedes freaked me out," he said. "If I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t know anything about it, I was at least uneasy about it. So, getting into pest control initially was just like I didn’t know how valuable they were. I was just like, I’ve got a job to kill them. I’m afraid of some of them so I’ve got a truck full of stuff that I can take them out with."
His work in pest control eventually led him to look into learning more about the creatures he was killing.
"It started with getting involved with Swat Pest and then becoming so much more because I was just so fascinated by it all. I just wanted to be better at my job."
A Closer Lens into the Beauty of Bugs
Although his job in pest control exposed him to a wide range of insects, it was his love of photography that ultimately flipped the switch. While on a job, Kevin remembered a memorable encounter with an ant.
"I got a macro lens for my phone, and I took a picture of an ant and I saw the details of its eye. I’m looking at this photo of this ant and I’m zoomed in on its eye and it hit me it was no longer this little moving speck on the ground. This is a living, breathing animal. That’s when I was like, I need to learn more about them, and I need to respect them more because I didn’t see their importance."
The astounding shots he captures of insects will leave anyone viewing his photography with this same realization. With the skill and careful attention to detail that viewers can see in his photos, it is no surprise that his love of photography dates back to when he was just a kid.
"I remember being 6, 7, maybe 8, and using birthday money at a Walgreens to buy my first camera."
He attributes his love of photography to the love of the outdoors that he inherited from his father who passed away last year.
"My dad and I spent a lot of time outdoors and he’s the big reason I have such a love for it. He always believed the best in me."
When viewing Kevin's work, it is hard not to notice his love for these creatures and the special care he takes in photographing them.
Beyond the Digital World
Outside of the Facebook community, Kevin's photography has been published numerous times and he has been interviewed by multiple media outlets including Evansville Living and the Courier & Press. He was even a guest speaker at the national meeting of the Entomology Society of America.
Around the tri-state, you can catch Kevin attending a variety of events and introducing people to his personal collection including tarantulas. A couple of weeks ago, he took part in STEM Fest, educating and encouraging younger students to hold a tarantula for the first time.
"Many of them were afraid but wanted to do it, and I got to see that switch from fear to fascination."
For many people, the idea of placing a hairy tarantula in the palm of their hand is enough to make their skin crawl. Personally, I struggle not to run away at the sight of a bee or wasp, terrified of being stung. For those with a fear response to certain insects, Kevin advises them to simply watch and learn.
"You can get really close to most bugs. Get out there and observe things. There’s so much you can gain from just sitting and watching."
If watching from a distance is still too much out of your comfort zone, there are still other ways to conquer those fears.
"That’s a big reason why I believe my group helps people with their fear because they can learn about it and see it in a safe way. Photos are a great way to look at things and not have to interact with it, or see it move."
And if photos and observation aren't enough, Kevin assures people, "I’ve handled thousands and thousands of spiders and have never been bitten by one."
Learn to Appreciate the World of Insects
When you visit Kevin's Facebook community, you will notice a lack of posts seeking advice on how to get rid of certain insects, nor will you see negative comments towards any of the insects shared. For Kevin, it is about educating people and urging them to see things in a different way.
"We look at wildlife in certain ways and we kill it, and we harm it because we don’t understand it."
Whether it is a Black Widow, a hornet, or a beetle, Kevin hopes people will see the bigger picture.
"I just want to see people learn to appreciate and be better to the environment. A lot of what we do is based in fear. Take the time to learn about it so that we can appreciate this beautiful world we have around us."
To see Kevin in action, you can visit the Indianapolis Zoo for Bug Fest in August. For more of his photography, check out the gallery below!