■ nstead of spending all your time searching for insects, you I can plant a garden to attract insects and watch them come ..I- to you! An insect garden can be as small as a pot of flowers in a calm, sunny place or as large as your whole backyard. The thing to remember is that all insects need food, water, and shelter. The more variety you can provide of each of these, the more types of insects you can attract.


Some insects eat plants, some insects eat dead or rotting things, and some insects eat animals (usually other insects). It is easiest to provide food for the plant-eating insects, but don't just think of flowers. Insects eat all the parts of plants. Beetle grubs often munch the roots; caterpillars, aphids, and spittlebugs dine on leaves and stems; and butterflies, moths, and honeybees head for the nectar-filled flowers. Flower feeders are usually garden visitors, flying in to get a meal, then flying away as soon as they have finished. Meanwhile, those insects that dine on the other plant parts might stay on one plant in your garden for their whole lives!

Since most insects have fuzzy eyesight, it is easier for them to find big groups of similar plants. If your insect garden is small, you might attract more insects if you have just one type and color of plant. If you have a large garden area and want many different insects, include a wide variety of plants, grouped by color.

Try some native plants (plants that grow naturally in your area) and ones with different flower shapes, colors, smells, and blooming times. Day-active (diurnal) insects use shape and color to decide which flowers to visit. Bees like yellow, blue, and lavender flowers that have a tube-shape, such as jewelweed, foxglove, lupine, and snapdragons. Butterflies prefer red, orange, yellow, and purple flowers with large flat heads that give them a place to land. Good flowers include milkweed, butterfly weed, yarrow, columbine, and purple aster. Night-active (nocturnal) insects like moths look for large, light-colored flowers or flowers with strong smells. Good plants include evening primrose, moonflower, bouncing Bet, Dame's rocket, and petunia.

As soon as the plant-eating insects are in your garden, look for the predatory insects. Ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises might stop by to see if they can catch some dinner.

Pollination Process

If there were no insects, there would be less cocoa, peaches, strawberries, apples, nuts, oranges, cherries, other plant fruits, or cotton. Plants produce edible or useful fruit to encourage animals (including humans) to help move their seeds to new places.You move seeds every time you wash purple bird poop off the family car or have a watermelon seed spitting contest. Although insects don't make any of the seeds or fruits, they are an important part of the process.

How do insects help? They pollinate plants—the first step in seed production.Think of a flower as a seed factory.To make a seed, a flower must put together two important parts, the ova and the

Gross Entomology:

, Pass the Poop, Please

Gardeners often use animal droppings as fertilizer for their plants. Nutrients that pass through an animal are taken up by the plants, helping them grow stronger and healthier. What gardeners might not realize is that many insects like to eat poop, too! Dung beetles roll mammal poop into balls then lay their eggs inside. Satyr butterflies feed on bird droppings. So if you want to create a garden good for both plants and insects, make sure you add the poop!

pollen. The ova are surrounded by nectar deep inside the flower in a place called the ovary.The pollen is sitting on a stamen outside the ovary, by a door called the stigma. Since most flowers cannot move,

Have you ever noticed signs painted on streets? Arrows, colors, shapes, and words give drivers directions. Some flowers have signs, too. They use circles of color, flashy landing spots, lines, and ultraviolet paths to guide bees and other insects to the nectar. The dark spot on this pansy is a sign to lead insects to its nectar.

they need a delivery vehicle. This is the job for the insects.

As an insect visits a flower to get some nectar, it brushes by the stamens. Some pollen rubs off on its body. (You can see this for yourself if you wrap a piece of dark felt around a stick and brush it over a flower. Look at the pollen collected on the felt.) At the next flower, the insect delivers some pollen right to the

Have you ever noticed signs painted on streets? Arrows, colors, shapes, and words give drivers directions. Some flowers have signs, too. They use circles of color, flashy landing spots, lines, and ultraviolet paths to guide bees and other insects to the nectar. The dark spot on this pansy is a sign to lead insects to its nectar.

stigma (the ovary door) as it gets a drink of nectar.The plant takes over from there, and a seed is started.


Like all living creatures, insects need water to survive. Mosquitoes, mayflies, dragonflies, and darners lay their eggs in water. Water striders, whirligigs, and diving beetles use water as their hunting grounds for dinner. Bees, flies, and leafhoppers simply need water to drink. For those insects that don't live in or near water, a single drop can be more than enough to satisfy their thirst.The trouble is, where do you find a single drop of water on a hot, dry day?

If your yard already has a bird-bath in it, there are a few things you can do to make it insect friendly. Add some sticks or leaves to the water so insects that accidentally fall in can climb out without waiting for you to rescue them. To make the birdbath people-friendly, change the water

The rocks act as warming spots while the sponges hold the mineral water.

every other day. Otherwise, mosquitoes might decide it is a good place to lay their eggs!

A better way to provide water for insects is to soak a washcloth or hand towel in clean water every morning. Hang it over a branch or on a clothesline and watch flies, leafhoppers, bees, and other insects come for a drink.

Most butterflies and some other insects get the water they need from the food they eat. But they do look for seeps (moist soil or sand) where they can slurp up mineral water, that is, water that has important nutrients that have been released from the soil.

Butterfly piddles

|\y creating a watering hole I fjust for butterflies, you can yy do these insects a favor and get the chance to take a better look at them.


Rich topsoil

Shallow dish, such as a plant pot holder, pie pan, or tray Several flat rocks of different colors Markers or paints Sponges Scissors Water

Spread a thin layer of soil in the bottom of the dish. Decorate the rocks with the markers or paint, then arrange them in the dish. Cut the sponges into designs and place them between the rocks.Wet the sponges so that some water seeps into the soil below, but not so much that there is standing water. Place your butterfly puddle in a sunny area near flat-headed flowers such as zinnias or Queen Anne's lace.Try to keep it out of the wind, and make sure it stays moist by checking it daily.

Journal Notes

When do butterflies land on the dark-colored rocks? (When it is sunny? Cloudy? Cool?

Morning? Evening?)

When do they land on light-colored rocks?

Insects are cold-blooded. They use their surroundings to regulate their body temperatures. Watch your garden just as the sun reaches it on a cool morning. You might see insects warming themselves in the sun. Morning is a great time to catch and observe insects. If the air cooled considerably during the night, the insects are likely to be moving much slower.


Insects use a wide variety of strategies in seeking shelter. Ants tunnel underground, beetles hide under rocks, bees construct hives in hollow spaces, paper wasps build nests in protected corners. Underwater, caddisfy larvae create a kind of glue to stick small sticks and pebbles together, making their own portable home. Although you can't build a home for each and every insect, here are things to consider when you are planning your garden.

• Plants with wide leaves provide more protection than plants with narrow leaves.

• Piles of leaves, rocks, and bark give crawling insects places to hide.

• Rotting logs or branches are home to many types of insects.

• Each fall, many insects lay their eggs on or near their host plants—the ones their babies will want to eat. If you want to see more insects each spring, leave a thick layer of leaves and your plant stalks standing after they have died. That way, new insects won't have to look for your garden the next year; they will already be there.

One caution: if you use potted plants in your insect garden, leave them outdoors when the weather gets colder. Otherwise, you might get some unexpected insects as houseguests!

The small tag on a monarch's wing doesn't hurt its ability to fly, and it helps researchers track its migration path. Darrin Siefkin

Monarch Migration Mystery

Dr. Urquhart at the University of Toronto had a problem. For 38 years he had been trying to find out what happened to monarch butterflies in the winter. Some scientists thought that only mon-archs in the South survived cold winters, but monarchs could survive in the North during mild winters. Dr. Urquhart believed that since monarchs are tropical butterflies, they had to fly south each winter to escape the cold. Then each spring, they would fly north to find milkweed for their babies to eat. But he didn't have any proof.

In 1937, Dr. Urquhart started sticking small labels with his address on the wings of mon-

archs.When people mailed tagged butterflies to him, he marked where they were found on a map. It looked like most monarchs were going to Texas, or maybe Mexico. He found 3,000 volunteers to help him, but still couldn't find many live butter-flies.Where were they? Finally, in 1972, his wife Norah wrote some articles for Mexican newspapers, asking people there to help. Ken Brugger read one of the articles. He worked at an underwear factory in Mexico City and had seen some monarchs around the countryside. He offered to tag monarchs and look for their winter home. Two years passed. In January 1975, Ken and his wife, Catalina, followed local farmers and loggers hiking up the ancient volcanoes of the Sierra Madre.When they reached a clearing, they saw an estimated 15 million monarchs resting on oyamel fir trees. It was the first record of outsiders finding the monarchs' winter hideaway.

The next year, Dr. Urquhart went to Mexico. "What a glorious, incredible sight!" he said. Then he watched a tree branch covered with monarchs fall to the ground.As he bent over to examine them, he noticed one with a label. It had been tagged in Minnesota—proof that the butterfly had migrated from nearly 2,000 miles to the north.

The discovery of the monarch's winter home was

To learn more about monarchs and how you can help by tagging monarchs, go to www.MonarchWatch.org.

Make a Connection

To learn more about monarchs and how you can help by tagging monarchs, go to www.MonarchWatch.org.

important, but Dr. Urquhart's work wasn't done. He picked up a butterfly, rubbed a few scales off a wing, and attached a bright pink tag. Now it was time to see how far north these monarchs went in the spring.

Although Dr. Urquhart died in 2002, researchers today are still tagging monarchs and studying their migration.

In the parts of the world where the temperature drops below freezing, adult insects do one of three things as winter approaches: they migrate (monarchs), lay eggs and die (grasshoppers), or adapt ///

and spend the entire winter as an adult (mourning cloak butterfly and box elder bug).To survive the cold weather, insects that overwinter as adults lose body moisture, and some of them produce glycerol, a type of alcohol that acts as an antifreeze.


3 clear film canisters with lids Stickers Water

Rubbing alcohol


) f


Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment