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Bitten by the passion bug

By Yang Feiyue and Hu Meidong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-07-06 08:31

Zheng Xiaoyang shares his knowledge and passion for insects and reptiles with his followers online. He is also engaged in nature education programs for youngsters. CHINA DAILY

More than child's play

Insects caught Zheng's fancy when he was just a little boy. "There were scores of small bugs in our neighborhood and at the kindergarten I went to. I loved observing them," he recalls.

When his grandmother got him a mantis in a glass bottle, he was thrilled to have his first six-legged pet. He began collecting other insects so that he could observe them from close quarters. He discovered that a seven-spot ladybug secreted a pungent, yellow liquid from its "knees" when under attack.

Despite his interest in insects, Zheng chose to study automation at Changchun University of Science and Technology in Northeast China's Jilin province in 2011.

"For my family's sake, I had to look for what they called promising career opportunities," he says.

Zheng bagged a plum job in software marketing in Beijing after he graduated four years later, but he desperately wanted to keep his passion alive.

The turning point came soon enough.

"The founder of a nature education organization in Chongqing was a member in one of my insect enthusiasts' groups on WeChat," he says.

The organization hosts insect exhibitions and lectures, and its programs immediately resurrected Zheng's primal love for the bug world. "I was like 'it would be a dream come true to make a living by doing what I love'," he says.

To be on the safe side, Zheng flew to Chongqing one weekend to check things out. Although the new job offered only two-thirds of what he was receiving in Beijing, he quickly jumped on board.

"It was a great experience, especially the feedback from parents and children. I considered it a meaningful cause, which allowed me to talk to more people about insects," he says, adding that he knew there would be more such opportunities in the future.

The new job not only quenched his thirst for knowledge. It allowed Zheng to change people's perception about the natural world. "They perhaps now see the world with more objectivity and tolerance," he says.

Zheng says he believes a better understanding of insects can remove irrational fears and help people foster a better relationship with nature. "For example, you don't need to be afraid of a toad. Well, unless you are eating one, in which case it can be poisonous," he says.

Zheng adds that his communication skills have greatly improved over the years and he hopes to reach a wider audience.

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