I eople haven't always used I paper calendars to indicate the day, month, and season. Before paper was even invented, people used the position of the sun, phases of the moon, and the appearance and disappearance of plants and animals to guide them through the seasons. For example, people knew that once they heard the katydids start singing, the first frost was only about six weeks away.This study of recurring events in nature is called phenology (fi-NOL-a-ji). A garden is one of the best places to practice phenology.


Calendar Pencil

Insect garden

Some people call phenology the science of appearances and disappearances.To be a phenolo-gist, you need to notice when each type of insect and plant in your garden appears, sings, migrates, and disappears. Since it is easier to notice when something starts, such as the first day you notice cicadas singing, sometimes it is best if you record every insect and plant you notice, every day.When you look back over your calendar to check for patterns, it will be easier to see the last day you heard a cricket sing or saw a butterfly.

Although it will take several years to collect enough information to look for patterns in your own garden, you can test the following observations made by other phenologists to see if they work in your area.

• Grasshopper eggs hatch when lilacs bloom.

• Mexican bean beetle larvae appear when foxglove flowers open.

• Wasps building nests in exposed places indicate a dry season.

• When you see a white butterfly, summer is almost here.

Make a Connection

There are many online phenology sites, including the North American Butterfly Association's daily sighting list at www.naba.org/sightings/sighting.ht ml. You can also use phenology if you take part in the migration studies with Journey North at www.learner.org/jnorth/.

After collecting information for several years, you can make your own insect calendar, with stickers or drawings on the dates when you expect to see mon-archs returning, when to listen for a cricket singing, and when the box elder bugs will start looking for a hibernation spot in your windowsills.

Insect Repellants

Although we rely on some insects to pollinate our food crops, other insects cause millions of dollars in damage to other crops.The Colorado potato beetle, boll weevil, cabbageworm, corn root worm, and tobacco horn worm (these "worms" are really caterpillars) are just five examples of insect pests. So while some entomologists have studied how to attract or encourage insect visitors, other entomologists have studied how to keep insects away. Putting up a sign or scarecrow doesn't work, and those blue-light bug zappers kill more harmless insects than mosquitoes, but there are plenty of other ways to limit the number of insects in a garden. Here are a few ideas:

You can build houses for bats and insect-eating birds like wrens, bluebirds, and purple martins. (See Resources for more information.) You can put out traps and wrap tape, sticky-side out, around plant stems. You can buy and release ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises in your gardens. You can garden with plants that insects don't like.

Make a Connection

There is more information about companion plants and a list of good companion plant combinations at www.eapmcgill.ca/Publications/ EAP55.htm.

Many insects won't visit fuzzy plants, such as lamb's ear. Chrysanthemums (kri-SAN the-mum) produce the chemical pyrethrum, which is used as a pesticide to kill many insects, including the fleas on your cat or dog. Other plants also produce chemicals that insects don't like, so smart gardeners plant insect-repelling plants around the plants they want to keep. Here are some plants and the insects they naturally repel.


Repels These Insects

Nasturtium Colorado Potato Beetle,

Squash Bug, Whitefly Garlic Aphids, Flea Beetle, Japanese

Beetle, Mexican Bean Beetle Onion Bean Leaf Beetle, Flea Beetle,

Harlequin Bug, Squash Vine Borer

Mint Ants, Aphids, Flea Beetle,

Imported Cabbage Worm

Real Entomologists

Some people don't like to use chemicals to keep mosquitoes away, but they still don't want to get mosquito bites. So scientists are trying to find natural repellants. An entomologist at North Carolina State University has discovered that a chemical found in tomatoes seems to keep mosquitoes away. Researchers at Iowa State University are testing how well catnip oil works to do the same thing. To see if they are right, you can do some research of your own. The next time you are going outside for the evening, stop by your garden first. Rub a few leaves of crushed catnip on one arm and leg, and some crushed tomato on the other arm and leg. You may need to watch out for stray cats or tomato beetles, but those pesky mosquitoes might leave you alone!


2 3-by-5-inch (7.6-by-12.7-cm) index cards Scissors Pen


Cut the index cards in half so that you have 4 2K-by-3-inch (6.3-by-7.6-cm) cards.Write the following actions related to insect gardens, one to a card. Place all four cards (including the blank one) into the envelope for safekeeping until you are ready to create your Insectigations! game.

Oh no! Got eaten by a praying mantis. Go back to start. If a roll of the head die shows you are a nectar eater, roll again.

Overwintered on a plant stalk in the garden. Lose one turn.

After a day of exploring, experimenting, and working in your insect garden, you decide to spend the evening sitting in a comfortable spot among your plants, flipping through your Insectigations journal. But you don't sit still long, for you remember you need to check your pit trap. After sketching and releasing the beetles and centipedes (even though they are insect imposters) that fell in the trap during the day, you look up just in time. A butterfly like the one you found as an egg, then raised to maturity, stops in its special puddle, then flits off to a flower before finding an evening resting spot. As the evening insect chorus starts to hum, you grab the bug buzzer tucked in your journal pocket and try to match the pulsing rhythm of the cicada song. It seems a shame that a day full of insect investigations has to end.Then you real ize, maybe it doesn't.You head to the phone to invite some friends over for an incredible game of Insectigations! When they say they are on their way, you suddenly realize you need to put the game together. Better read on and get going!

Jnsectigatiojisl The Çame

2 to 4 players

If a single pair of flies were to breed, and all their babies survived and had more babies, and all those babies survived and had even more babies, then within a year—if you crammed all the flies' bodies together into a ball—the ball would be about 96 million miles in diameter! So, some insects have to die before they have a chance to mate and lay eggs.What causes them to die? The answer is on your action cards!


Game pieces

(see sidebar) Tape or glue Marker


Tokens, such as plastic bugs, cicada exoskeletons, and decorated bottle tops

Place the game board on the floor or a big table. Read through your action cards and decide in which habitat they would work best. For example, if you have a card about turning over rotten logs in a forest, that card should be in the forest habitat. After you have determined the best place for each action card, line them up in the trail area you made on the game board. It's OK to create more action cards or use the blank cards where you need them.

Once you have a path that goes through your habitats, tape the cards into place. Draw an oval as your starting square and label it "Egg." Draw an adult insect at the finish line of the path. Find a few friends and collect some exoskeletons or plastic bugs to use as your tokens and get ready to play!

The object of the game is to be the first one to make it from the start (Egg) to the finish (Adult). Here are the rules of the game:

1. Have each player roll a regular, numbered die.The one rolling the highest number goes first.

2. Each player takes a turn by rolling the numbered die and then moving his or her game token along the action card path.

3. Follow the instructions on the action card that you land on after moving the number you rolled on the die.

4. If a player lands on a space that is already occupied, it is time for a duel. Each player selects either the head or abdomen insect die to roll. (They can choose the same die.) If a player rolls a weapon (like a stinger or pincer), that player can send the other player back to start. If both players roll a weapon, they both go back to start. If neither one rolls a weapon, they both stay on the square.

Do you have the luck you need to survive as an insect? Roll the dice and see what happens.

Game Pieces

The instructions for creating all the parts you need are found in the following places. Game board: See Chapter 6 on page 85. Insect dice: See Chapter 2 on page 27.

Action cards: See the end of Chapters 2 through 8 on pages 31, 43, 55, 68, 87, 100, and 113).


Ten (omm°n Insect QrJers

With so many insects in the world, it would take a very thick book to identify every single one. Sometimes, the best you can do is figure out which order an insect belongs to. Insects are grouped by things they have in common. The order name usually gives you a clue to their common characteristics. This table will help you put the insects you find into the correct order.

Order Name (What It Means)

Familiar Members


Blattodea (flat body)

Roaches: cockroach, wood roach, Chinese roach

Flat oval bodies with long, hairlike antennae. Small heads are hidden by a visorlike shield, abdomen hidden by four wings that they rarely use. They are fast runners who prefer the dark.

Coleoptera (sheath wings)

Beetles: Water beetles, lightning beetles, June bugs, weevils

Bodies can be almost any shape or size, but they all have a hard "shell," with a straight line down the middle of the back. This shell is made by the first set of wings that act as covers for the clear flying set folded underneath. Chewing mouthparts, some with large mandibles. Antennae can be very short or very long, usually threadlike or clubbed.

Diptera (two wings)

Flies: housefly, mosquito, midge

Only order where all adults have only two, transparent wings. Small antennae, bristle-like or feathery, and very large eyes. Piercing, lapping, or sponging mouthparts. Soft body.

Ephemeroptera (living one day)


Four transparent wings, the first set much larger than the hind set, held up over the back when resting. The abdomen is long and slender with three hairlike "tails" at the end. Large eyes, no working mouth-parts as adults.

Hemiptera (half wings)

True bugs: ambush bug, assassin bug, stink bug

Two pairs of wings. When resting, the first pair folds flat over the back, making a rough "X" pattern. The head on land-based bugs is usually small with small eyes and long antennae. Water-based bugs have large heads with large eyes and short antennae. All have piercing-sucking mouthparts that form a beak that is held under the body when not in use.

Homoptera (similar wing)

Cicadas, leafhoppers, froghoppers

Most have four wings that are all very similar. When they are not being used, the wings form a "tent" or "roof" over the stocky body. Very short antennae, medium eyes, and sucking beaklike mouths for feeding on plants.

Hymenoptera (Membranous wings)

Ants, bees, wasps

Only insects with stingers. Are often found in social groups. Two pairs of thin, transparent wings, with the hind wings usually smaller. Some adults have no wings. Many have hard bodies with a narrow connection between thorax and abdomen that forms a pinched waist. Chewing or chewing-sucking mouthparts, and usually medium to long antennae. Ants have small compound eyes while bees and wasps often have large ones.

Lepidoptera (scale wings)

Butterflies and moths

Four wings covered with tiny, often colorful scales. Abdomens are much longer than the thorax and usually stout. Smallish heads with large compound eyes, coiled-tube mouthparts, and long antennae. Butterflies usually have knobbed antennae, moths usually have feathery antennae.

Odonata (tooth + water)

Dragonflies and damselflies

Four nearly equal-sized transparent wings with many veins. Dragonflies hold their wings out to the side when resting, damselflies hold theirs up over the body. The thorax looks short and stocky when compared to the long, slender, tapering abdomen. Very large compound eyes, very short bristle-like antennae, and biting/chewing mouthparts.

Orthoptera (straight wing)

Grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, and mantids

Long legs in front (praying mantis), bent higher than the body at the knee on the hind pair (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids), or all over (walking stick). Females may have long ovipositor at end of abdomen. Chewing mouthparts, usually long antennae, very small to large compound eyes. Those with wings have a leathery first set with the second pair folded like a fan and often tucked to the sides of the body.

Glossary abdomen: third (last) of the three main body parts of an insect. amplitude: the measurement of the vertical size of a sound wave. arthropod: an invertebrate with a segmented external skeleton and jointed legs; including insects, spiders, ticks, millipedes, centipedes, and crustaceans.

cerci: small hooklike structures at the end of the abdomen, often used in mating.

decomposer: an organism that helps break down dead plants and animals.

dilute: to make a liquid weaker by adding water.

ecosystem: a community of interacting plants and animals and the area they live in. entomology: the study of insects.

exoskeleton: hardened outer skin of an insect and other arthropods. frequency: how often something repeats itself. function: how an item is used; the purpose for which something exists.

habitat: the kind of place that is natural for the life and growth of an animal or plant.

instar: the stage of development between two molts of an immature insect.

invertebrate: any animal lacking a backbone. Includes insects, spiders, worms, and many other animals. larva: the stage of development between egg and pupa in an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis. A larva is usually an active feeding stage of an insect and doesn't look like the adult in form.

mandible: a jaw.

metamorphosis: the development of an insect from egg to adult, during which it changes shape from one stage to the next. nymph: the stages of growth between egg and adult of an insect that undergoes simple metamorphosis. ocelli: simple eyes; larvae can detect some colors and shapes, while adult insects are sensitive to light and movement but cannot see images.

organ: a specific part of an animal that has a specialized function. ovipositor: the egg-laying structure on the rear abdominal segment of a female insect. periodical: occurring at regular time intervals. pheromone: a chemical smell produced by insects to attract a mate or form a cooperative group. predator: an animal that hunts, kills, and eats other animals. pupa: the third stage of complete metamorphosis in insects during which a larva transforms into an adult. spiracle: an external opening of the breathing system in an insect. surface area: measurement of that part of an object that touches the air.

thorax: the body region of an insect between the head and abdomen, it has the legs and wings. volume: the amount of space that something occupies. vortex: a whirling mass of water, like a whirlpool.


Chapter 1: Getting Started

Insect Folklore


This site contains an extensive collection of both factual and fanciful insect proverbs from around the world.

• Kite, L. Patricia. Insect Facts and Folklore. Brookfield, CT:The Mill-brook Press, 2001.

Aimed at student in grades 3 to 7, the pictures, stories, and information about twelve different insects provide a fascinating look at insect-human interactions through the ages and around the globe.

Drawing Insects

• Dubosque, Doug and Damon Reinagle. Draw Insects. Columbus, NC: Peel Productions, 1997.

Targeted to grades 4 to 8, this book provides lessons for creating detailed pencil drawings of over 80 arthropods. It also includes classification and habitat information about each creature.

• Masiello, Ralph. Bug Drawing Book. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2005.

Written for children ages 5 to 9, this book provides simple instructions for drawing nine different adult insects, a caterpillar, chrysalis, and a spider and its web.

• Glausiusz,Josie. Buzz:The Intimate Bond Between Humans and Insects. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2004.

Many instructors encourage beginning artists to look at other drawings or photos as they learn the basics. Buzz features stunning photos and scanning electron micrographs of insects, giving readers an eyeful of details that would otherwise be missed.


In conjunction with its annual Insect Fear Film Festival, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts a thematic insect art contest for students grades K to 12.You'll find the rules, information, and an entry form on this Web site.


As part of its educational outreach efforts, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers profiles of various career opportunities, including that of an insect artist.

Chapter 2: Body Basics

About Abdomens

• The Firefly Project, 103 Wiltshire Drive, Oak Ridge,TN 37830, 888-520-1272, e-mail: [email protected]

The direct address for the company that pays people to collect fireflies for research.

Mighty Muscles


You can either view or contribute to the University of Florida at Gainesville Department of Entomology's list of 39 insect records, from the fastest flier to the smallest eggs.


A more thorough explanation (with illustrations) of how insect muscle use compares to human muscle use.

What's Bugging You


As part of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, many county extension offices assist residents with insect identification of local species.You can also find the number to your local extension office under "Extension Services" in the county government section of your phone book.

• Insects and Spiders: National Audubon Society's Pocket Guide. NY: Chanticleer Press, Inc., 1988.

• Kavanagh, James. Bugs and Slugs:An Introduction to Familiar Invertebrates. Pocket Naturalist. Chandler,AZ:Waterford Press, Inc., 2002.

• Leahy, Christopher. Insects:A Concise Field Guide to 200 Common Insects of North America. Peterson's First Guides. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

• McGavin, George C. Insects: Spiders and Other Terrestrial Arthropods. Dorling Kindersley Handbooks. NY: Dorling Kindersley Inc., 2000.

• Zim, Herbert S. Ph.D., and Clarence Cottam, Ph.D. Insects: A Guide to Familiar American Insects.A Golden Guide. NY: Golden Press, 1987.

Chapter 3: Metamorphic Magic

Complete Metamorphosis

• Wright, Amy Bartlett. Peterson's First Guides: Caterpillars. NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Identification of caterpillars, including their habitat and food preferences and their final adult form.


A computer-animated version of the complete metamorphosis of a butterfly.

Chapter 4: Sense-sational



The direct site for a standard test for color perception with links to helpful sites that have further information.


Information about what it means to be colorblind, how to test young children for color perception, and suggestions for inclusive educational strategies.


View computer-modeled bee vision with a selection of preloaded images or enter your own design.

Chapter 5: Can We Talk?

Chapter 7: Keepers



A virtual library of animal sounds, many accompanied by a picture

A continually updated list of animals on the federal endangered

and explanation of how and when the sound was recorded.

species list with links to information about the plans to monitor or

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