Just for Kids: What's Bugging You?

By George Steele

Sum­mer is here and so are the bugs!

Well, actu­al­ly most of the bugs” bug­ging you aren’t real­ly bugs. All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. Bugs belong to the group ento­mol­o­gists call Hemiptera. Most of the big-time prob­lem insects are the flies, called Dipter­ans, and the bees, ants and wasps, the Hymenopter­ans. But before you all go Bah, hum­bug” on these insects that are bug­ging you, don’t for­get, they’re all pol­li­na­tors help­ing out plants.

You know that bees pol­li­nate, but what about mos­qui­toes and black­flies and such? Well, first of all, only the females bite and suck blood to get the pro­tein they need for egg devel­op­ment. But both males and females eat nec­tar from flow­ers to gain ener­gy and nutri­ents. Get­ting at that nec­tar is also the work of pol­li­na­tion, and that makes them pollinators.

With all those bugs, er, insects” fly­ing and crawl­ing and hop­ping about us they’re a ready-made sub­ject for a young nature lover to study. For starters, one can begin an insect col­lec­tion. No need to kill any insects for a collection.

Look for dead insects around lamp fix­tures and win­dows. I keep my eye open for dead insects in park­ing lots and build­ing entry­ways. Insects hit by cars some­times get blown off and on to the ground. I’ve found some amaz­ing sam­ples of drag­on­flies and but­ter­flies that way. Build­ing entries have night lights that draw insects. I once found an incred­i­ble sam­ple of a giant water bug in front of a store win­dow that must have died after being attract­ed to the lights of the store. You can’t pin these insects in the offi­cial ento­mo­log­i­cal way, but you can use egg car­tons or those can­dy box­es with a clear plas­tic top to store them and show off in your insect muse­um. There are also inex­pen­sive bug box­es” with a mag­ni­fi­er top, avail­able online.

What cap­tures most young ento­mol­o­gists’ inter­ests, though, is catch­ing live insects. Eas­i­ly done. Go for sim­ple equip­ment. A four or five-gal­lon plas­tic tub to store equip­ment in also dou­bles as a hold­ing con­tain­er for live creepy crawlies. Plas­tic spoons and small paint brush­es can be used to cap­ture indi­vid­ual insects. Repur­posed white plas­tic yogurt, cot­tage cheese, or oth­er food con­tain­ers make great cap­ture and obser­va­tion tools. An old white sheet, inex­pen­sive insect and aquar­i­um nets, or, even bet­ter, an old wire mesh kitchen strain­er round out the list. And the bud­ding ento­mol­o­gist will even­tu­al­ly want some insect books. The sim­plest and least expen­sive are the Gold­en Guide” books.

Where to catch insects? Well, they are all around us. Any pond or still water area will be packed with all sorts of aquat­ic insects. Use the kitchen strain­ers or aquar­i­um nets to scoop up insects hid­ing in the bot­tom sed­i­ments and float­ing water plants. Place your scoop­ings into a water-filled tub and look for crea­tures swim­ming about. Cap­ture them with the spoons and paint brush­es and place them in white food con­tain­ers for close study.

Check out land habi­tats for ter­res­tri­al insects. Place a white sheet under a bush or the low branch­es of trees. Shake the branch­es. Watch for the insects that fall down onto the sheet. Cap­ture them with spoons and paint brush­es. Iso­late them in food tubs to observe and pho­to­graph. Gath­er up a pile of dead leaves in the for­est and spread them out on a white sheet. Look for all sorts of crea­tures crawl­ing about. If some­thing flies away, I say no wor­ries”: there’ll be so many more that you’ll have your tubs full before you know it. Use an insect net to sweep into leaves and branch­es or tall grass­es and unmowed areas. Dump your net catch­ings onto the white sheet or the large plas­tic tubs and start cap­tur­ing crawl­ing, jump­ing and slith­er­ing insects. Before you know it, you’ll be doing your own Nation­al Geo­graph­ic insect documentaries!

Summer 2019

Volume 37 , Number 2

Share this

The Latest from Landis

Aug 06, 2022

Landis Forest 5K - August 6, 2022

A record turnout! Click here to view all the great photos from this event, and... read more

Jun 10, 2022 | Anne Donnelly

Don't Overlook Your Reciprocal Admissions Privilege

A sometimes overlooked benefit of your Landis Arboretum membership is the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal... read more

May 29, 2022

Scenes From the Spring Plant Sale

Thanks to our many wonderful volunteers, plant consignors, vendors, and customers, the Landis Signature Spring... read more

May 28, 2022 | Fred Breglia, Executive Director

From the Director’s Desk: Q&A, Part III

In this last Q&A session, I am focusing on leaf color change during the... read more

May 28, 2022 | Erin McKenna Breglia, Landis Gardener

From the Garden: Milkweeds for Monarchs!

Many people enjoy seeing butterflies in our Landis gardens. especially the monarch butterfly, Danaus... read more

May 28, 2022 | Anita Sanchez

Life and Death on the Lawn

It’s a beautiful summer day. You’ve finished your stack of books from the Landis... read more

News Archive