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January/February 2002
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Incredible Insects
by Linda C. Joseph, Columbus (Ohio) Public Schools, Library of Congress

[Editor's note: URLs mentioned in this article appear in the chart that follows.]

Pests, workers, artists—the intrepid insects of the world fascinate, annoy, and benefit humankind. From butterflies to bees to the lowly cockroach, insects are an integral part of the natural environment, making their mark on culture through rhyme and lore. Who can resist Jiminy Cricket, a bug transformed into a wise intellectual who advises Pinocchio and encourages kids to get the en-cy-clo-pe-di-a to find information? Who hasn't chuckled at unsuspecting bugs planning an attack only to be foiled by RAID?

What causes fireflies to blink? Did you ever wonder about the origin of "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite?" Sleep tight is a reference to the tightening of ropes that supported mattresses on old beds and don't let the bed bugs bite refers to the critters that sometimes lived in the wooden frame. Regardless of the reactions by students, insect studies are a favorite in the classroom. Let's delve into the insect world and see what we can learn.

Insect Starting Points

Citybugs
Bug identification is a snap. Kids can use the guided search by answering a series of questions, or they can browse through images. Two features that will be very helpful to your budding entomologists are the pages about where to find bugs and how to make a bug collection. Ask the expert, insect anatomy, and lots of resources are furnished as well. This Web site is a collaborative outreach project between UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources and the Oakland Unified School District in California.

Entomology for Beginners
Little ones will enjoy the colorful illustrations and the simple interactivity. By clicking on different parts of an insect, they will learn about its anatomy. Metamorphosis is demonstrated through an animation showing the stages of butterfly development. "Simple and elegant" is the best way to describe these pages that are sure to please the young entomologist.

Insecta Inspecta World
The building of Insecta Inspecta World was the culmination of a yearlong research activity by the Thornton Junior High School Honors Academy, conducted under the review of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in 1999. Information on a variety of insects is thoroughly researched and very well-written. Sounds, animations, and drawings complement the material being presented. One particularly intriguing article discusses insects that appeared on ancient coins.

An Insect Recipe
(from Audubon Institute: Eating Insects, http://www.auduboninstitute.org/html/eatbugs.html)

CHOCOLATE CHIRPIE CHIP COOKIES
by Kathy Gee and Julie Stephens

2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 12 oz bag chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup dry roasted crickets

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla; beat until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and insects; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded measuring teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Insects on the Web
More than 90 stunning photographs and descriptions from 14 insect groups, including ants, grasshoppers, and walking sticks, greet the visitor to this site. Especially interesting is the section on butterfly wing patterns. Roll your mouse over the picture and the image changes from a circle to a wing shape. Click on the image and learn facts about the characteristics of the genus while viewing a poster view of the patterns.

Iowa State University Entomology Department
Photographs, notes about insect problems related to Iowa, and a chat room highlight the Iowa Sate University Entomology Department Web site. Although the gallery does not present an exhaustive list of insect images, the ones provided show spectacular close-ups of the different species. Suggestions for the treatment of insect infestations are contained in the notes section. Insect topics can be discussed in the interactive chat room. High school students would benefit most from this college entomology department.

University of Kentucky Entomology Department
Looking for solutions to pest problems? Want to know how to raise crickets? Need some classroom activity and lesson ideas? Check out the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky. Insect recipes, games, a bug calendar, and a bibliography for further reading can be found in the For Kids section of the site. In addition, there are several lessons and units from which to choose and use in the classroom, including flour beetles, termite trails, and choose an insect. Art teachers will appreciate directions for making paper mache insects and other craft items. This is a wonderful way to integrate science and art.

Wonderful World of Insects
Once you navigate beyond the distracting advertisements and locate the "Key to the Order of Insects" at the bottom of the page, you will discover a wealth of information. Begin exploring an insect's anatomy by clicking on Pete the grasshopper. You are transported to another area of the page where the specific anatomical part is described. Each description is accompanied by a black-and-white line drawing. Next, read an introduction to the various insect orders. Many of these pages have links to other Web sites. Finally, if you are contemplating keeping insects in the classroom, be sure to review the care sheets that cover housing, feeding, breeding, and other important facts.
 

Insect Cams

Ant Cam
Get up close and personal with a queen ant and her colony. There are two cameras that automatically refresh every few seconds. However, the coolest feature is the live streaming video of the ants in motion using RealPlayer. Answers to questions such as, "How long do ants live?," "How much weight can a worker carry?," and "Do ants ever get lost?" can be found in "Ant Facts." In addition, there are step-by-step instructions on building an ant terrarium.

Bee Cam
Clusters of bees are busy working on the honeycomb at this commercial Web site. The image refreshes every 30 seconds. To really see the bees in action you will want to download the short video. If you want to set up your own observation hive, Draper's Super Bee Aviaries carries the supplies to get you started.

Insect Zoo
Maneuver this camera remotely. Hunt down the white-eyed assassin bugs identified by white spots on their wings. These insects can be found throughout the world. They stalk their prey, then pounce and inject a lethal dose of saliva through piercing mouthparts. The enzymes in the saliva break down the food and assist with digestion.

Insects as Food
Despite the unsavory thought of eating a bug, many cultures in the world do eat insects as part of their diet. In fact, insects can be thought of as survival food when nothing else is available. When my sister taught home economics one year, she introduced the nutritional value of insects and had her students prepare and sample chocolate-covered ants as well as other delicacies.

Audubon Institute: Eating Insects
Zach Lemann is the resident entomologist at the Audubon Institute. He was chief chef on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and cooked up several recipes, including toffee surprise, grasshopper fritters, and chocolate covered crickets. Sounds quite yummy, don't you think?

Insect Recipes
Did you know that many insects contain protein and calcium? Check out the nutritional value of various insects, and then try out some tasty recipes also featured on The Tonight Show. Choose from a variety of delectable offerings, including bug blox with dry-roasted leafhoppers, chocolate chirpies with dry-roasted crickets, and corn borer cornbread muffins.
 

Insect Sounds

Bug Bytes
Listen to wing vibrations, feeding sounds, and even a rice weevil larva in a wheat kernel. The Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology is developing methods for counting and monitoring insect populations through acoustic technology. These sound samples are a result of their work.

Nature Sounds: Insects
Crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, and bees sing their songs in natural settings. A brief description of where the song was recorded and a personal anecdote make you feel right at home.
 

Where to Buy Insects

Carolina Biological Supply
Purchase ants, butterflies, crickets, and a variety of eggs.

Insect Lore
Live insect kits and other supplies are available.
 

Lessons and Activities

Alien Empire
Experience insects through a multimedia presentation based on the PBS miniseries Nature. This companion site is loaded with photographs, animations, sounds, video, and interactive learning. Explore bee anatomy, the life cycle of a monarch butterfly, and the hatching of mayflies. Solve the insect scramble puzzle and create masks from the accompanying patterns. Don't miss the videoclip, "Insects as Food."

Enchanted Learning Printouts
Print all sorts of black-and-white insect drawings with labels and descriptions. This is a wonderful resource when studying insects.

Insect Scavenger Hunt
Create your own scavenger hunt by adapting some of the ideas from the Great Cultural Entomology Scavenger Hunt developed by Dr. Leon Higley at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. His list consists of 50 topics to search, such as dances involving insects, children's books about insects, and children's songs involving insects. This scavenger hunt could serve as either a hook or a culminating activity.

Most Wanted Bugs
Mug shots and rap sheets are posted by the Federal Bug Intelligence Agency. Your job is to locate these notorious creepy crawlies and report them to headquarters. Plan a lesson around this tongue-in-cheek site and enlist your bug detectives to find and identify these villains in the wild. The FBIA will be proud of them!

Using Live Insects in Elementary Classrooms: For Early Lessons in Life
Live Insects in Elementary Classrooms for Early Lessons in Life is a collection of 20 integrated lessons with science, math, and language arts activities that use live insects. These lessons are aligned with National Science Education Standards (NSES). Most of the lessons include reading a book such as A Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle or Grasshopper on the Road by Arnold Lobel. Comprehensive rearing sheets explain how to make containers, what to feed insects, and how to handle them in a classroom setting. Each insect sheet contains information about identifying features, natural history, impact on the ecosystem, and tips on collecting. A Spanish version is also available.
 

Bug Hunting

It's time for a field trip. Grab those nets, jars, boxes, and magnifying glasses. Stop by the media center and pick up an insect field guide. Remember to take your digital camera or camcorder to document the sights and sounds of your adventure. Be sure to take a journal to record data and other findings. Dress appropriately for the weather and the area where you will be hiking. And please, don't forget the bug spray.


Be sure to visit the MultiMedia Schools Home Page (http://www.infotoday.com/MMSchools) with active links to all of the Web sites mentioned in this article. Then fly over to CyberBee (http://www.cyberbee.com) for more curriculum ideas, research tools, and activities to use with your students and staff.

Insect Starting Points

Citybugs
http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/citybugs/

Entomology for Beginners
http://www1.bos.nl/~bijlmakers/entomology/begin.htm

Insecta Inspecta World
http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/

Insects on the Web
http://www.bugbios.com/

Iowa State University Entomology Department
http://www.ent.iastate.edu/

University of Kentucky Entomology Department
http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Entomology/enthp.htm

Wonderful World of Insects
http://www.earthlife.net/insects/six.html
 

Insect Cams

Ant Cam
http://www.antcam.com/

Bee Cam
http://www.draperbee.com/webcam/beecam.htm

Insect Zoo
http://zoocam.ent.iastate.edu/
 

Insects as Food

Audubon Institute: Eating Insects
http://www.auduboninstitute.org/html/eatbugs.html

Insect Recipes
http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood.html
 

Insect Sounds

Bug Bytes
http://cmave.usda.ufl.edu/~rmankin/soundlibrary.html

Nature Sounds: Insects
http://www.naturesongs.com/insects.html
 

Where to Buy Insects

Carolina Biological Supply
http://www.carolina.com/
 

Insect Lore
http://www.insectlore.com/
 

Lessons and Activities

Alien Empire
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/alienempire/

Enchanted Learning Printouts
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/insects/printouts.shtml

Insect Scavenger Hunt
http://www.ag.iastate.edu/grants/HIG97/hig197.a2.html

Most Wanted Bugs
http://www.denniskunkel.com/PublicHtml/Education05.asp

Using Live Insects in Elementary Classrooms: For Early Lessons in Life
http://insected.arizona.edu/uli.htm
 

Linda Joseph is the author of Net Curriculum: An Educator’s Guide to Using the Internet, published by CyberAge Books. The recipient of numerous awards, in addition to her work in the Columbus Public Schools and the Library of Congress, Linda is a part-time instructor for Ohio State University. Communications to the author may be addressed to her at Columbus Public Schools, 737 East Hudson Street, Columbus, OH 43211; 614/365-5277; ljoseph@iwaynet.net.
 

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