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Q&A With Stephanie Dole: Being Beetlelady

Malia Savella | msavella19@dtechhs.org | March 17, 2019

Stephanie Dole, lovingly holding her pet tarantula. Photo provided by Stephanie Dole

If you’ve ever seen crawly but cool tarantulas at d.tech during Intersessions, they’re probably Stephanie Dole’s! Instructor for the Exploration class Bug Science for Everyone since 2017 Doyle has a PhD in entomology and runs her own bug education business called Beetlelady. She’s also the mother of two. The Dragon met with her to discuss the intersection between bugs and her own life. [This interview has been edited for length and clarity]

Q: Have you always liked bugs?

For the most part, yes. I often tell a story when teaching class about when I had head lice, when I was about seven. When I found them in my hair, I thought, “Oh, no, this is not good.” And then I thought, “Oh, but if I told my parents about them, they’re going to take them away right away. And I really want to look at them for a little while and figure them out.” So I was definitely an odd one in that regard at an early age.

Q: Did you start collecting or housing bugs before Beetlelady?

I had a whole bunch of things, you know, just for fun. I had cockroaches and millipedes and some tarantulas. But then when I started Beetlelady I started either collecting things or buying them from breeders.

Q: Do you usually try to choose bugs that, you know, are going to be able to be moved around based on like, their individual personalities or their species type? Or do you actually have to train them?

A little bit of each. So I have, for instance, the Arizona Blonde Tarantulas I bring a lot, and those two are amazing. I can have preschoolers handle those. I have a third one of that species that I never bring to classes because it’s just turned out to be cranky. A lot of times I order my tarantulas on the internet, so I never even meet them until they show up in a box at my house. So there’s a little bit of rolling the dice and then there’s also– I wouldn’t call it training as much as they get accustomed to it. You start them young, and they just they realize it’s not a big deal. They don’t feel threatened and scared by it, and so they get more and more handleable. But you can’t do that with one that starts out cranky.

Q: What is it like having so many bugs sharing your house, with your family and whatnot?

So, about four or five months ago I actually moved the bugs out of the house, although the family was great with the bugs. The only complaint I ever really got about the bugs was… you feed tarantulas crickets, right? And on the day where I fed everybody, some of the crickets that hadn’t been eaten yet would be in the office chirp-chirp-chirping, and we don’t have a very large house. But my kids love them, like, really love them. My daughter just declared that she wants to have a tarantula birthday party, so I guess I’m gonna do that.

Q: What are your hobbies and passions outside of this?

The other side of me is my creative side. I do a lot of sewing, and that kind of ties in a little to the Beetlelady thing, in that I sew a lot of clothes with bug [print] fabric that I wear when I’m teaching. I also knit a lot. And then recently, I’ve been trying to be more much more serious about drawing and painting. I like to draw a lot of bugs, not surprising. But I do sew things that don’t have bugs on them. And my knitting rarely involves bugs except the occasional thing that has a bug on it.

Q: Are there any other ways that you incorporate that creative side in your life?

Well, into the business I do quite a lot because one of the goals with Beetlelady has been to give the science a bit of a feminine aesthetic. I definitely like to do a lot of stuff for my classes where I create displays, or a create visuals that go with my classes that allow it to like, kind of showcase prettiness and the beautiful nature of insects and loving them.

Q: Where do you hope that the Beetlelady businesses is going?

I would really love to author some books, especially books for children and younger people about insects, and about some of the things that are not really written about. I’m not really sure how you go about doing that. But, you know, present myself to some publishing companies as somebody who’s an expert in both teaching kids about bugs and bugs themselves.  

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