Young bug enthusiast meets his hero, E.O. Wilson

Eleven-year-old Jasper Bagley has been buggy about insects since he was 5 and saw the documentary, Lord of the Ants, about Pulitzer Prize-winning biologist Edward O. Wilson, the world’s leading ant expert.

On Wednesday (March 25), Bagley, dressed immaculately in a gray suit set off by a cicada pin and a tie spattered with insect silhouettes, finally got to meet his 85-year-old idol at UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Bagley and his family came all the way to Berkeley from Altadena in Southern California, and Wilson was happy to meet the budding entomologist, who reminded him of a younger version of himself.

Jasper Bagley, 11, shakes hands with his idol, E. O. Wilson.

Jasper Bagley, 11, shakes hands with his idol, E.O. Wilson, among shelves of animal specimens in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. (UC Berkeley photo by Tom Levy)

“You’re the age I was when I first began getting interested in bugs,” Wilson told the boy as they met among shelves of animal specimens.Wilson was wrapping up a photography session for the College of Natural Resources’ Breakthroughs magazine.

Wilson was on campus to deliver the keynote address at Berkeley’s centennial conference on science and the National Park Service, “Science for Parks, Parks for Science: The Next Century,” this week.

A year and a half ago, Bagley had missed the chance to hear Wilson speak closer to his home. This time, his mother, Liba, was able to arrange for Jasper and his 7-year-old brother Cole to meet Wilson through the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

At yesterday’s meeting, Wilson signed Bagley’s copy of The Ants, the book for which Wilson and co-author Bert Hölldobler won a 1991 Pulitzer Prize. He drew a sketch of an ant in the book and told Bagley it was a new discovery that he dubbed “Jasperidris Californicus Wilson.”

A fifth-grader at La Cañada Preparatory School, Bagley said he hopes to become an entomologist himself one day after studying at either Harvard or UC Berkeley.

“We know so much about the big animals, but we barely know as much about small animals like insects,” he said.

The founding president of the 35-member-strong Altadena Bug Club, Bagley is the proud keeper of a home menagerie that includes three tarantulas, several tailless whip scorpions native to Tanzania, a four-foot ball python and a colony of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, better known to insect-lovers as Gromphadorhina portentosa. The family also has two cats and a goldfish.