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(WJW) — An insect found on the side of a Walmart in Arkansas is exciting and mystifying researchers all while making history.
The Polystoechotes punctata, commonly known as the giant lacewing, reportedly hasn’t been spotted in the eastern part of North America in more than 50 years. But somehow, in 2012, one was discovered all the way in Arkansas, which has never had a recorded sighting of the insect before.
Michael Skvarla, who is now director of Pennsylvania State University’s Insect Identification Lab, was a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas when the insect was found.
“I remember it vividly, because I was walking into Walmart to get milk and I saw this huge insect on the side of the building,” Skvarla said in Penn State statement. “I thought it looked interesting, so I put it in my hand and did the rest of my shopping with it between my fingers. I got home, mounted it, and promptly forgot about it for almost a decade.”
He reportedly was teaching an online course in 2020 using his personal insect collection when Skvarla, along with the help of his students, discovered what type of bug it truly was.
Giant lacewings, which mostly live on small invertebrate, were once found all over North America but in the 1950s, they went away. Now, Skvarla has co-authored a paper on its supposed return, which was published in Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington.
“Discovery doesn’t always hold that same kind of grasp on people that maybe it did 100 years ago,” Penn State doctoral candidate Louis Nastasi said in a statement. “But a finding like this really highlights that even in a run-of-the-mill situation, there are still a tremendous number of discoveries to make about insects.”