Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
July, 2005
Regional Report

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Son Jonathan inspects delphiniums for bugs that he might like to add to his entomology collection.

Kids and Bugs: An Adventure in the Garden World

Summer is the season when insect activity begins to become more prominent in the yard and garden. In some cases, populations of certain pests will explode with the hot weather and our lack of attention to the plants we grow. My sons enjoyed observing and studying insects when they were young. When the two older boys were 9 years old (Jason) and 7 (Justin), they began to appreciate the role of insects in the landscape. The latter was more interested in capturing the bugs and, like any good hunter, would try to lure bugs into a trap. They would even help me collect samples of bugs to "show and tell" at the plant diagnostic clinics and 4-H entomology projects.

At the time, the boys wanted to help teach other kids about the role of insects in our landscapes, so they wrote the following articles. Jason is now 19 and in college, and Justin is 17, with other interests. Perhaps you know some young people that would enjoy exploring insects, so I thought I'd pass along some thoughts from a child's point of view.

An Introduction to Insects
By Jason Cretti

One of the most exciting things of being a beginning gardener is getting to know all the different kinds of creatures that live in our yard and on different plants. Did you know that all the insects on earth weigh twelve times as much as all the human beings?

What does it take to be an insect? You can tell if a bug is really an insect if it has three main body parts: 1) head, 2) thorax, and 3) abdomen. Six legs are used for jumping, swimming, or grasping. At the top of their heads, insects have a pair of feelers or antennae. An insect's body is covered by an exoskeleton that protects its soft insides.

Why are spiders not insects? Spiders are not insects because they have two body parts instead of three. They have eight legs not six.

Insects eat a lot of food. Some caterpillars eat more than 100 times their own weight as they grow. The Luna moth caterpillar eats close to its own weight each day. If you did that, you'd have to eat about 200 hamburgers every day.

Bug Catcher
By Justin Cretti

Lots of crawling insects like dark, moist places close to the ground. To catch different kinds of bugs, dig a hole in the ground and put a jar into the hole (the top of the jar should be placed level with the ground). Put a little piece of bait in the bottom of the jar. For bait, use fruit, grass, leaves, or sprinkle some sugar in the bottom of the jar.

Put a piece of wood on top to keep out rain and larger animals. You can set a couple traps in different parts of your yard. Leave the traps alone for at least six hours.

You might capture different kinds of beetles, Roly-polys (pillbugs), ants, sowbugs, slugs and other kinds of critters. Find out what you catch and write it down. Let them go when you finish looking at them. Sometimes I will collect them, and pin them for Dad. Then he can use them in his bug collection to show at the plant clinics.

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