The university campus is a lot less crowded during summer, but that does not mean nothing is happening. The care for insects is one of those continuing tasks. As Head of Insect Rearing at the Laboratory of Entomology, Léon Westerd is responsible for this care for one more day. As of next week, he will be on vacation and in September he will switch careers.
© Didi de Vries
Léon once studied Animal Management and then worked at the Arnhem zoo. After a while, he was longing for a bigger challenge and applied at WUR. He became Head of Insect Rearing and technical assistant at the Laboratory of Entomology. In that position, he manages and coordinates the insects for research and education at the chair group. ‘Many researchers come to me with questions about keeping insects or to order something for an experiment. I make sure they have a greenhouse, plants or insects on time.’
Léon’s passion for animals is more than just his work. At home, he keeps snakes in a terrarium. ‘I always had a preference for more exotic animals, although I also have a cat.’ He learned about snakes from a colleague who already held snakes for some time. At one point, Léon had the opportunity to get two snakes from his colleague, and as time passed, he got additional ones. Léon keeps Australian pythons, which are harmless to humans. The smallest species he has had only grows to 80 centimetres, but the largest can grow up to three metres in length.
Although Léon greatly enjoyed working for the university, it is time for him to take on a new challenge. In September, he will start a part-time bachelor’s course in Mechanical Engineering, which he will combine with a job at a metal working company in Veenendaal. In his new area, Léon will work less with animals, but he keeps a positive outlook on things. ‘Insects are emerging as a source of proteins in cattle fodder, so I expect a lot of opportunities will arise in that branch, such as automated factories for cost-effective production.’
What Léon will miss most about his work at Entomology? ‘The fact you are in the front seats whenever a discovery is made.’