JoAnne Skelly: Creepy crawlies are an interesting study
Creepy crawlies often fascinate children who realize that insects are amazing creatures. Exploring the insect world with the children in your life can be an incredibly powerful learning experience and fun at the same time. Some attention-grabbing facts you may want to share with your children, from http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/animals/insect.html:
There are between 6 million and 10 million insect species
Some insects can walk on water
Only male crickets chirp
Female mosquitoes drink blood in order to obtain nutrients needed to produce eggs
Spiders are not insects
In my role as a horticulturist, I often identify insects. Here are a few of the more curious ones I have seen. Hopefully, you can share some of these with your children or grandchildren and discover the wonderful world of entomology with them.
Last week someone brought in a snakefly, saying it looked like a brontosaurus, if a brontosaurus had wings. These strange looking creatures are predators. Their larvae feed on soft insects such as grubs, while the adults eat insects and pollen.
Consider the uniqueness of the walking sticks or stick insects. They are hard to spot because they resemble the twigs in which they live. Their camouflage is one of the best on earth. They can be from ½-inch up to the 13-inches in length. We don’t have the big ones in Nevada; they live in Borneo. Most are brown or green in color, depending on their background. They usually come out at night and eat leaves.
Have you heard about the bloodsucking conenose or kissing bug? They are related to assassin bugs, but feed on the blood of domestic and wild animals and humans. They are occasionally found indoors. Their bites can be very serious for people allergic to them.
Have you ever seen a Tarantula hawk wasp? It is the New Mexico state insect. They can be two inches or longer with blue-black bodies and rust-colored wings. They paralyze tarantulas; taking them back to their burrow. Then, they lay their eggs on the spider. The eggs hatch and feed on the spider. The stinger of the female can be up to 1/3 inch long and delivers what some consider the most painful sting in the world.
The insect world provides fascinating biology lessons. Combine outdoor research with online investigation. If you find an insect you can’t identify, bring it in to your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at email@example.com or 887-2252.