GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most people know the feeling of driving along a highway and watching a small winged insect make violent and messy contact with the windshield.
But few view the results as lovingly as Mark Hostetler, a University of Florida researcher and devoted student of splattered bug remains.
Hostetler has just published "That Gunk on Your Car," a book that opens up the world of insects to people outside the scientific community through the goo left by vehicular impact.
"It's a good way to introduce people to science and insects without being humdrum and boring," Hostetler said.
The book includes illustrations to help match pre- and post-splat bugs, facts about insects and suggestions for do-it-yourself experiments.
Hostetler said he collected many of his pictures by haunting local bus stations, where he documented the entomological results of long-distance trips.
"The buses have these big, flat windshields, so when the insects hit, they would sometimes stick there and I could collect the bug too," he said.
He also collected specimens by attaching a small net to the roof of his car as he drove 12,000 miles around the country. After running into a cloud of bugs, "I would pull over to the side of the road and compare the insect in the net with the splat," he said.
"That Gunk on Your Car" costs $10 and is about the same size as the field guides bird-watchers use to identify their winged quarry.
"[The size is] just right for your glove compartment, so when you have an unfortunate encounter with an insect along the highway, you can identify it right away," Hostetler said.
Besides distributing the book to Gainesville-area bookstores, Hostetler is offering it through the Internet at: http://nersp.nerdc.ufl.edu/arm/ people/hos.html.