Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

The year I was born, my parents built a cabin in a remote area of northeastern Minnesota. Every August, we vacationed there. As long as I can remember, I was told to beware of the lumberman beetle. It was called a lumberman because it came out in droves when people were cutting down trees. The large insect was so light and so quiet; it could land on one’s clothes or skin without the person being aware of its presence. The beetle had a reputation for inflicting a painful pinch.

When my children were young, they had many questions about the insect. We were not able to find the answers to their questions in any of our books (this was in the era before the Internet), so we placed a specimen in a bottle and took it home with us to Denver. Once home, I contacted an entomologist at the University of Colorado. The scientist was more than happy to meet with us. (As a parent or teacher, you should never be afraid to contact a specialist in any area. Specialists are usually very happy to find someone else interested in their field.) This was our own little field trip and was very interesting.

The entomologist had never seen this particular beetle and was pleased to have it for his collection. He pulled out drawers and drawers of similar long-horned beetles that were carefully mounted and labeled. He provided us with a fascinating education on similar beetles. He also admonished me to never instill fear in my kids about insects; instead, he said that insects should be considered a wonder to be observed and respected.

Most young people have a natural curiosity about bugs of all sorts, and they should be encouraged to learn about them. You can start by providing children with a magnifying glass and going out in your backyard or to a park to observe these creatures up close. Visit displays of bugs at museums. Go to the library and take out books on the subject. There also are many resources on the Internet that can help your child learn about bugs. Here are just a few.
  • Amateur Entomologists' Society—This site from the U.K. tells how to collect and care for bugs, provides activities to learn about insects, and talks about how to become an entomologist.
  • Bug Guide—Sponsored by the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University, this site helps you identify and classify all types of bugs. It has an incredible number of wonderful photographs.
  • Cogito Conversation: Ainsley Seago, Insect Biologist & Illustrator—This interview with Dr. Ainsley Seago is a great resource for learning more about careers in entomology.
  • The Lost Ladybug Project—This site provides all kinds of activities and lesson plans about ladybugs. Scientists also ask students to help find various types of ladybugs in different areas of the country and share that information. Instructions for collecting and sharing this information are listed.
  • YouTube—YouTube continues to be an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and students. (Adults should screen content at this site for young children.) In the search box, type in words such as entomology, arachnids, and insects, or type in specific names of bugs. You will find videos from many reputable sources.
  • National Geographic—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find a variety of educational videos, pictures, and articles.
  • Nova—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find colorful slide shows, thoughtful articles, videos, and more.

Some offshoot topics to consider when studying entomology include insects as a food source, forensic entomology, and medical entomology.

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