Getting Started

Ladybug, ladybug,fy away home,

Your house is on fire and your children are alone.

You're as busy as a bee.

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

The larger the middle band on a wooly bear caterpillar, the colder the winter will be.

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite.

From the time you were every young, you have likely heard many sayings like these.What do all these sayings have in common? They show that people have been studying insects for a long time.

The formal name for studying insects is entomology (en-ta-MOL-a-je). Scientists who study insects are called entomologists.What exactly do entomologists do? Some identify and name new insects. Others keep track of insect pests and try to figure out ways to control them. Some try to figure out how to increase the number of insects that help humans. Others try to figure out how insects communicate, how their senses work, or how to use insects to solve human problems. Although humans spend billions of dollars every year on insects, you don't need a lot of money to be a good entomologist.You can find insects wherever you are, and the only equipment you really need is a pencil and a journal.

I xplorers and scientists have I long used journals, also called logs,to record what they find, see, hear, and do. Most of the activities in this book include observations or questions for you to answer in your jour-nal.Your notes will become a valuable record of what you see and think, even if you feel your experiences are ordinary or nor-mal.Although any type of notebook will work, the following journal is one you can use for years.


Three-ring binder with pockets and a clear plastic cover sleeve Unlined paper Markers Lined paper Hole punch

A three-ring binder makes a great journal for several reasons. It has pockets that can hold pencils, a magnifying lens, ruler, small field guide, and a bandage or two. It is easy to wipe dew, dirt, or mud off the plastic cover. It lies flat when you open it, making it easier to write in. It is simple to add more paper. It is easy to make a new cover and rearrange the contents for science projects or reports.

Use one piece of unlined paper and the markers to create the first cover for your journal. You might want to include your name, a clever title, and some sketches of insects or insect habitats. Slip the cover paper into the clear plastic sleeve.

If your unlined paper doesn't already have holes punched in it, lay a piece of lined paper with holes on top of three sheets of plain paper to use as a guide. Use the hole punch to make three holes so the paper can be put on the rings. Since you should use a separate sheet of paper to record your discoveries for each activity or experiment that you do, repeat this process until you have at least 20 sheets of unlined paper for your journal. Put the unlined paper and at least 20 sheets of lined paper on the rings in your binder. Finally, slip any equipment you want in the pockets, and you are ready to go.

It's essential to include in your journal entries: the date and place of each activity or insect find, the name of the activity (when appropriate), sketches of what you see, and specific things you notice, like how many different colored grasshoppers you find or the sizes of the ants that you catch. Also, copy down the questions from this book so that you know what your answers mean.

Draw an Ins ect

Even if you are a beginning artist, it is important to include in your journal accurate sketches of the insects you see.You can start by copying other drawings or photographs, but your goal should be to draw from actual insects that you find or catch. Remember, the more you practice, the better your drawings will become.





Insect (or insect picture)

Take a close and careful look at the insect you want to draw. Instead of trying to draw it all at one time, use your imagination to break it down into pieces. Don't worry about the little details at first; just look for shapes you recognize and can draw. It might help to think about traditional

shapes (circle, oval, rectangle, pyramid) or to think about the shapes of common items (egg, crescent moon, ice cream cone, pencil).

Sometimes it is helpful to draw the middle part of the insect first and then think of it as a clock.Where are the legs? At 4:20, 6:30, and 8:40? Where is the head? Where is the abdomen? You also want to think about sizes. It is impossible to make a decent, life-sized drawing of some of the very tiny insects. Instead, for every insect, large or

small, make a line to show its real size, then draw it whatever size you want. What is important is to show relative sizes. Is the head the same size as the body? Half the size? Twice as big? Figure out how big each piece is compared to the others, then lightly sketch the shapes you need together.

When you have drawn all the pieces, erase or adjust any that don't look like you want them to. After you have everything in place, spend some time erasing extra lines, making lines at joints, points, and special features darker, and adding shading to show different textures.

An Ordinary Observation Becomes an Extraordinary Opportunity

Like many kids who live in the country, high school student Rachael Collier knew the easiest place to find monarch caterpillars was on the milkweed plants growing along the gravel roads near her home in Iowa. She noticed that the milkweed plants were often dusty, and she began to wonder if the road dust had any effect on the monarch larvae's health. Instead of waiting for someone else to answer her question, she turned a bathtub in

Make the Connection

If you really enjoy drawing insects, enter one of your artworks in the University of Illinois annual insect art contest. More information is available at egsa/ifff.html.

her home into her laboratory, and started raising monarchs. Each day, she gave the same caterpillars milkweed plants that had a layer of road dust on them, and gave other caterpillars clean milkweed plants. She weighed the caterpillars at each stage of their development and kept track of how many lived and how many died. By the end, her records showed that monarch caterpillars exposed to limestone road dust were not as large and were more likely to die than caterpillars that ate clean milkweed. She presented her findings at science fair competitions, where she was awarded several thousand dollars in scholarship money, plus a summer research job in another country.

Although a journal and pencil are your most essential and valuable equipment, a few other things will make your study of insects easier and more fun. A magnifying lens is helpful for looking at very small insects, a ruler is important for noting the size of insects, and a jar where you can keep an insect from flying or crawling

Rachael Collier's bathtub laboratory.

Courtesy of Rachael Collier

Rachael Collier's bathtub laboratory.

away while you are trying to sketch it is also handy. (Activities in chapter 5 will teach you how

Courtesy of Rachael Collier to catch insects, and chapter 6 has more information on making temporary insect homes.)

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