Today an experiment I’ve been helping with has finished. Four weeks after it started, it’s safe to assume that all the beetles who are going to die of fungal infection are dead. So what about the rest of them?
I murdered them by stuffing them into the freezer.
And it feels more like murder than the usual way of killing them. Fungal spores are everywhere, and attack these beetles naturally. In a way, breeding the beetles in a laboratory keeps them safe from the pathogens they’d usually pick up fairly easily in the field. But most wild beetles don’t encounter freezers.
At the same time, I’m glad the experiment is over, since checking if they are dead is tedious and time-consuming, and of course needs to be done regularly if we want data of any quality. I had wished they would “just bloody die” at least a dozen times in the past 3 weeks. So I was almost relieved to be able to tape up the autoclave bag (they’ll be steamed tomorrow!) and dump them in the chest freezer. Which of course leaves me feeling guilty about being glad at the death of another living thing etc etc.
I’m so, so glad I do not work with mammals. I don’t know what happens to them at the end of an experimental run, but I’m deliberately not looking it up, because I’m sure it’s not pretty.