Alumni Spotlight Science & Technology Society & Culture

Emma Grace Crumbley: Bugging Out

Emma Grace Crumbley
Insects do not faze Emma Grace Crumbley. Not at all. As a UGA student, Crumbley--known online as Emma the Entomologist--double majored in entomology and applied biotechnology. She also was head zookeeper for the UGA Insect Zoo, which is home to dozens of insect species, including these Madagascar hissing cockroaches. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

Dragonflies are recognizable thanks to their glimmering, delicate wings and their long bodies. But Emma Grace Crumbley wants people to know that’s not the full story.

These insects start their lives underwater as vicious, alien-looking predators whose mouths gape open to capture prey. And as an entomologist, that unexpected element makes dragonflies Crumbley’s favorite.

“You look at an adult dragonfly, and it’s dainty and beautiful, but underwater it is a whole new world,” says Crumbley BSAB ’21, BSES ’21. “That’s always my fun fact. I try to hook people with that.”

Crumbley—also known online as Emma the Entomologist—is a scientific communicator with a passion for bug facts. And whether she’s sharing a recipe for cricket cookies or highlighting insect names with Star Wars origins (ever heard of Agathidium vaderi, AKA the Darth Vader beetle?), she is dedicated to making insect education accessible.

Crumbley was fascinated by the world around her from an early age. But she didn’t pay much attention to insects until her first entomology class at UGA.

“I grew up curious about public health and diseases, so I thought it would be neat to learn more about the vector that spreads many of those diseases—insects—instead of just the diseases,” she says. “After taking that class, I wondered why more people weren’t learning about bugs and talking about bugs. It was all I could think about.”

She changed her major the following spring.

Crumbley became a zookeeper at UGA’s Insect Zoo, a home for dozens of insect species in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a hub for education and outreach. She thrived sharing her knowledge. Now, Crumbley is a little less hands-on but continues to educate others through her role as Mosquito Squad’s subject matter expert and her personal TikTok.

She’s inspired by ’90s television scientist Bill Nye and educational YouTube and TikTok star Hank Green, and Crumbley hopes her blogs and videos make entomology approachable. While some of her work takes a fun spin on education—including a Mosquito Squad blog on insects and their love languages—she also discusses important updates on malaria transmission, pest control tactics, and invasive species.

“My goal is to break down information and make it more digestible,” she says. “I could talk forever about bugs, so my hope is that people come away with some nuggets of knowledge. I want to spark fascination in the field.”

That’s why some of her favorite interactions come from her youngest audiences. Kids’ curiosity challenges Crumbley to think about her field in a new way and address questions that spark intriguing answers, including, “What does a chrysalis feel like?”

Crumbley is prepared to explain how chrysalises, the protective covering in which caterpillars transform into butterflies, are hard on the outside with a sort of caterpillar soup on the inside. But she can’t predict how kids might interpret that information.

“They’ll compare this information to things they see in real life, and someone asked if a chrysalis was like a Reese’s peanut butter cup because it’s hard on the outside and gooey on the inside,” she says. “For me, that was a ‘Yes! That is so cool’ moment. That’s my favorite question I’ve ever been asked.”

Touchdown! Well, maybe not. It’s just an Australian Spiny Walking Stick doing its thing. Emma Grace Crumbley is a scientific communicator specializing in insects, and while her Mosquito Squad blog has a fun spin, she also discusses important topics like malaria transmission, pest control tactics, and invasive species. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)