T

I here's no doubt about it—if

I you watch insects long J- enough, you can witness some fantastic things, such as watching a praying mantis catch and eat another insect, a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, or two male stag beetles battling over a female. If you are very lucky and observant, you might see these things in the wild. But it is much easier if the insects are in an enclosed space.

It is important to remember that insects are living creatures and a vital part of our ecosystems. If you have caught some insects that you would like to observe for a few days, the best way to see how they really act is to duplicate, as close as you can, what their home is like.They need food, water, shelter, and space. For mealworms and crickets, these four things are pretty easy to supply. But dragonflies require too much space, and scientists are still trying to determine what a male lightning beetle eats. Then there are the hornets and wasps, which are never good candidates for terrariums.

Materials

Soil

Large, clear container with lid (aquarium, hamster cage, or large plastic food container) Pebbles Sand

Small, green plant Dry leaves Branches Wet sponge Jar lid Dry cereal

Pieces of fruit (apple, banana, and more)

Place the loose soil on the bottom of one half, and the peb-

bles and sand on the bottom of the other half of your container. Plant a small, green plant in the soil.Add some loose, dry leaves for shelter. Stick in a few branches for climbing and a wet sponge on a jar lid for water. Dry cereal, apple slices, and banana pieces will provide food for many insects, while others will eat each other.Top it all off with a tight-fitting lid with plenty of breathing holes.You might also want to cover at least part of the terrarium with dark paper or cloth to make your night-active insects more active during your day.

Plant eaters need fresh food, and some are very picky. If you catch an insect on a plant, make sure you put

some of the same plant in the terrarium. If you are not sure what plant your insects will eat, gather several different kinds from the area where they were captured.Watch what they eat and replace those plants every day with fresh ones.

If you have a predatory insect such as a praying mantis, you will either need to catch or raise food for it.You can buy mealworms

Make a Connection

Visit www.centralpets.com or check out Pet Bugs: A Kid's Guide to Catching and Keeping Touchable Insects by Sally Kneidel (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1994) for more information about keeping insects as pets.

and crickets at many pet stores, or use your sweep net to catch its daily dinner.

If you are trying to keep aquatic insects alive, make sure you have a large jar or aquarium full of pond water and plants. Put some mud and rocks on the bottom for insects to take cover. If you need more liquid, don't put in water straight from a faucet. Let tap water sit in a jar for at least 24 hours before carefully adding it to your aquarium. Otherwise, the chlorine that is added to make drinking water safe for humans will likely kill all your insects. Some aquatic insects will eat fish food, while others need to eat insects and small creatures to survive.

Dead Insect Collections

Many people, universities, and museums have insect collections. Some people collect insects as souvenirs from places they have

Journal Notes

I started my terrarium on this date:

I started my terrarium with these insects:

Here's what each insect likes to eat:

Here's what I've seen each of them do:

Make a Connection

Look in the front of A Field Guide to Insects: American North of Mexico (Peterson Field Guide Series) by Richard E. White and Donald J. Borror (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) for specific instructions on how to label and preserve insects as part of a true collection.

traveled, while others collect them as a challenge, such as who can collect the most kinds of crickets. Museums and universi-

ties have insect collections for people to enjoy and for scientific research. Collections also help to show change over long periods of time. Researchers can measure insect species that were captured more than 100 years ago and see if they are bigger or smaller than ones found in the same area today. Whether you want to collect insects for a hobby, as a sport, or to do research, one thing is certain: it's easier to examine, identify, and draw an insect that doesn't move!

There are so many of most kinds of insects that you will not be threatening the survival of an insect species by capturing and keeping one as part of a collection. However, you should never take more insects than you need. Also, never take an insect if it's the only one you see in one place at one time.

Properly mounted insects include information about when and where they are found.

Properly mounted insects include information about when and where they are found.

You Saw What?

t At

1/1 / hen ancient explorers

1/ 1/ traveled to new lands, they returned with stories about everything they had seen— including new insects.As the stories were passed from person to person, sometimes the descriptions were changed a bit, either by accident or to make the story a little better.Artists would try to draw the animals described, without ever having seen them. Sometimes, this created very unusual looking animals.

Materials

Insect Paper Pencil A friend

Do you think the artist who drew this was looking at a fly or listening to someone else's description of what a fly looks like?

Journal Notes

I gave this description to _to draw.

Here's my drawing of the insect I saw:

Here's my friend's drawing of the insect:

Here's how my drawing compares to my friend's (in words):

Look carefully at a real insect, then write a detailed description of it, without naming what type it is. Describe what it looks like and how it acts. Include all the details you can, such as it was carrying something four times its size, or has eyes that take up most of its head. Give your description to a friend (without telling him or her it is an insect) and ask your friend to try to draw what you described.

In later years, explorers including James Cook, who traveled to Antarctica, and Charles Darwin didn't bring back just stories. They collected actual insects to help people understand the new lands they explored.

For more than 50 years, moviemakers have entertained audiences with insects. Scary movies have featured oversized moths (Mothra), praying mantises (The Deadly Mantis), and cockroaches (The Mimic 2). Animators have also had fun creating ants, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and fleas that sing, dance, and invent things in films including A Bug's Life and Antz. If you were making a movie, what would you have this large chestnut weevil do?

Jerry A. Payne, USDA ARS

Bug Business

For many years, people have hunted, killed, and mounted insects to sell to collectors and educators. John Assimwe in Uganda, Africa, walked through his country's dense forests collecting insects. He pickled stag beetles in alcohol and pinned rare butterflies to stiff boards, then mailed them to collectors and researchers around the world. He sold some butterflies for $20 each, and a rare beetle in good condition for almost $100. But tracking through the jungle is hard work, and finding a specific insect isn't always easy.

Now there is a new twist on the business. To help preserve rain-

Endangered Insects

In 2004, there were 35 insects listed on the federal endangered species list.This means there is a limited number of each insect, or forests and other important habitats, some governments and companies are teaching people how to raise insects that are found in their areas. John Assimwe is now working with a United States businessman to start an insect farm. The farm will have workers who tend the native plants that provide food for the insects, and feed and breed the insects. When the insects die, the workers will mount and sell them. When organized correctly, these insect farms will help sustain the native habitat and wildlife while providing people with jobs.

very few places where the insects can now be found. How do scientists determine an insect is endangered? This is where collections come in handy.

Before natural land is developed, scientists survey the site to determine what lives there. If they find an insect (or any other animal or plant) they haven't seen anywhere else, they do some research. They ask museums and universities to look in their collections to see if they have an example of the insect in question.The little tags that label each specimen help the researchers understand where the insect has been captured before. Then they can visit those places to see if the insect can still be found there or not. If they can't find the insect anywhere else, or find only limited numbers of it, they can ask that the insect be classified as an endangered species.

How does this affect humans? If you owned land that was home to an endangered species, you might not be able to build a home on it, farm it, or change it in any way that could harm the insect.This makes some landowners mad. They want to know why it is so important to save one more kind of fly, or beetle, or flea.

The reason scientists believe it is important to save every species they can is the same reason you keep all the parts that come with a new bike you assemble. You might not know what each part is for, but you don't want to be missing a part you need. There are so many insects that haven't been studied, entomologists don't know what might happen if one species of insect disappeared.

For example, what would happen if all the endangered California Delhi sand flies disappeared? Perhaps they are the only insect that pollinates a certain type of plant. So if the fly disappears, that plant will, too. And maybe that plant produces a chemical that someday will be discovered to be a cure for a disease. If the fly disappears and therefore so does that plant, then we'll never discover this cure.

Make a Connection

To check out the list of endangered animals (including insects), visit http://endangered.fws.gov.

To check out the list of endangered animals (including insects), visit http://endangered.fws.gov.

What can you do if you want or need an insect collection, but don't want to catch or kill any insects? There are plenty of other ways to create a large and unique insect collection.

If you want to have a collection of real insects:

• Look in the light fixtures and windowsills in your home and school. Most of them have insects just dying to be a part of your collection. Use clear tape to lift them out and put them on index cards for study.

• Look on the front of a car. From the spring to the fall, insects from butterflies to beetles can be found smashed on the windshield and grill. Pry them off using toothpicks, then use clear tape to attach them to index cards. If you want to try to identify them, check out the book That Gunk on Your Car:A Unique Guide to Insects of North America by Mark Hostetler (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1997). Collect shed exoskeletons (cicadas are particularly easy to find).

If you want to have a collection about insects:

• Collect insect stickers

• Collect insect toys

• Collect insect jewelry

• Collect insect stamps

In October 1999, the U.S. Postal Service came out with the Insects and Spiders 3-D stamps. Although you can't buy them at the post office anymore, you might be able to find one of these (or an insect stamp from a different country) on an old letter or card your parents have. Cut around the stamp, then soak it in water until the stamp slides off the paper. Look on the back of the U.S. stamps for information about the arthropod on the front.

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