- "What is entomology?"
Quick answer: insect science.
- "What is a monarch?"
Quick answer: An orange and black butterfly that's the icon of the butterfly world.
Science. It's all around us, and learning about science should and must be a priority.
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Teaching Tools site asks: "Why do we need to teach science in elementary school?"
"Our future depends on a public that can use science for personal decision-making and to participate in civic, political, and cultural discussions related to science," wrote co-authors Julie Cafarella, Amber McCulloch and Philip Bell in January 2017.
"Though we have national goals for science education, science is often pushed to the side—particularly at the elementary school level. There are multiple reasons for science to be a core part of elementary school learning. It can support: (a) development of a knowledgeable citizenry, (b) meaningful learning of language and mathematics, (c) wonderment about how the natural world works, and (d) preparation for STEM-related careers."
In yesterday's Bug Squad blog, we wrote about naturalist Greg Kareofelas, associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis, and his nearly month-long project of rearing a monarch egg to adulthood. He named the butterfly "Ruth," after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of equal rights, who died Sept.19 after a long bout with cancer.
“You're Ruth,” Kareofelas told her as she dried her wings on Sept. 19. “You're alive. You're going to fly.”
What sparked Greg's interest in monarchs and entomology? An elementary school classroom. In 1951, when he was seven years old and a second grade student at the Holy Rosary Academy, Woodland, he wrote and illustrated a wonderful little booklet on the monarch life cycle. His teacher graded it an "A" (we would have, too!).
The booklet, now almost 70 years old, provides an insight into the scientific creativity and wonderment of a young student; his dedicated teacher, Adele Dennison, who apparently delighted in sharing her love of science; and his proud mother, Delores Kareofelas (1923-2018), who treasured the booklet. "She saved it, and all my report cards, too," Greg said.
As the STEM website says:
- Scientific literacy starts in early childhood and continues through elementary school. Scientific knowledge is necessary to fully participate in human culture and democracy—especially as it becomes more technological. The future of our nation depends on a scientifically literate public.The new vision for science education emphasizes the need for consistent science instruction throughout a student's academic career. Scientific literacy is a developmental process that takes years of concerted effort to cultivate.
- Science learning takes significant time—but that time is not being provided. A recent study shows that science instructional time is decreasing in elementary school. Only 20% of K-3 students and 35% of students in grades 4-6 have access to daily science instruction. (See this report on teachers' practices around science instruction).
- Students are ready to reason about science in early childhood. Children enter elementary school with reasoning skills and perceptions of the natural world that provide a sound basis for science learning. A recent report calls for greater attention to monitoring instructional time in elementary science. Multidisciplinary, long-term science projects are often easier to do with students in elementary school years. Elementary science can promote narrow views of how science works. Efforts should be made to broaden what counts as science and engineering.
That means insects, too!
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) sponsors a Chrysalis Fund to foster "the future of entomology through grants to K-12 teachers and other educators who use insects in the classroom to get kids excited about science." See how to apply.
Entomologist and science writer Gwen Pearson, outreach coordinator at Purdue University's Department of Entomology, recently wrote an excellent piece on "Learning at Home with Bugs" for Entomology Today, an ESA publication.
"Kids are full of questions by nature," Pearson wrote, in urging parents to "resist the temptation to quickly provide answers. Use some of the prompts below to gently guide a child to think more deeply:
- What do you see?
- What do you think it is?
- Why do you think that's happening?
- What does that make you wonder about?"
GregKareofelas' keen interest in science and his acute observations glowed when he wrote the monarch booklet. He even added the gold band around the green chrysalis in his illustration. (See below)
And yes, butterflies still fascinate him.
Think "Monarch Starter Set."
And it's just in time for open house at the Bohart Museum of Entomology from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, March 19 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane, University of California, Davis. The open house, themed “Eggs to Wings: Backyard Butterfly Gardening,” is free and open to the public. There you'll learn ideas on how to garden for butterflies and perhaps…you may go home with a Monarch Starter Set.
The Monarch Starter Set?
- Take one zippered, meshed butterfly habitat container, available for purchase from the Bohart Museum of Entomology's gift shop (or you can buy a zippered meshed laundry bag elsewhere)
- Add one Patrón tequila bottle, selected because it is a sturdy, chunky bottle with a broad base and a narrow neck.
- Fill bottle with water.
- Add milkweed plants (from your backyard or found in the wild)
- Add monarch caterpillars (from your backyard or found in the wild)
- Place in no-fly zone area, such as inside your house or on a screened porch. That's to deter tachinid flies and the wasps that lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and chrysalids and kill the hosts
- Watch a caterpillar eat its fill, form a chrysalis, and then observe the monarch eclose
- Release the monarch and voila! You're doing your part to help the declining monarch population
Using this method, we reared and released 64 monarchs last year in our small scale conservation project. What's good about the Patrón tequila bottle: the heavy bottle won't tip over, the caterpillars won't drown, and the milkweed will stay fresh. However, be sure to change the milkweed every day to keep the food fresh and abundant for your caterpillars.
Thanks to generous donations from TJ's Tavern on Main Street, Vacaville, the Bohart Museum can now provide the bottles to a limited number of "Monarch Moms" and "Monarch Dads." The butterfly habitats are available in its gift shop for around $20. The bottles are a gift. (Note: Teetotalism runs in our family so when I say "I'm going to the bar," that comment usually draws a raised eyebrow and a giggle or chuckle until I add "umm, to get the Patrón tequila bottle donations.")
The bottles are also perfect for the Bohart's live petting zoo and other uses at the insect museum.
Not to be overlooked is the bee logo--pollinators matter!--on each Patrón tequila bottle. The Patrón Spirits Company, which produces the product in Mexico, chose a bee as its logo "because of the well-known attraction bees have to Weber blue agave," according to Reference.com. "Weber blue agave is the primary plant from which Patrón tequila is made.” Tequila, as most folks know, is made from heart or core of the blue agave plant.
The primary pollinator of the blue agave, however, is the greater long-nosed bat or Mexican long-nosed bat, Leptonycteris nivalis. The lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) also is a key pollinator. Check out Purdue entomologist Gwen Pearson's informative piece on "Tequila, Booze and Bats" on wired.com. It includes a link to a video of bats pollinating agave. This is a favorite pollinator subject especially during National Pollinator Week, which this year is June 19-25.
Fact is, bugs bug people. Birds bug bugs. Bugs bug bugs. If you've ever seen a praying mantis lying in wait for a bee or a ladybug snatching an aphid, or a dragonfly grabbing a hover fly, you know they do. Bugs bug bugs.
In the insect world, people seem to love only butterflies, bees, ladybugs and dragonflies, as evidenced by bug-inspired clothing, jewelry or tattooes. They do not like bed bugs, knats and mosquitoes.
When you think about it, there are about a million described species of insects in the world, "more than five times the number of all animals combined," according to emeritus professor Jerry Powell in his book, California Insects. "Estimates of the number remaining to be discovered and named vary from 1.5 to 5 million or more."
We all talk about the good, the bad and the bugly. The good: the honey bee. The bad: the mosquito. The bugly: the praying mantis.
So it was interesting today that Organic Pest Control of New York City named the world's top 50 bug blogs/pest control blogs. You can see the list here. Geographically, they range from California to Singapore to the UK. "These sites were shown to have valuable, fresh and frequently updated content that is helpful in both entomology and the pest control industry," according to the website.
At least two blogs have UC Davis connections. Biologist and noted insect photographer Alex Wild of the University of Illinois, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis with major professor/ant specialist Phil Ward, is listed for his Myrmecos (that means ant) blog.
The other blog with the UC Davis connection: yours truly with Bug Squad.
Here's what the website said about about the first 10 on the list:
Bug Girl's Blog (Charismatic Minifauna)
This blogger has a PhD in entomology (insect study) and is not afraid to share her fascination through the blog. Another standout feature of the blog is her knowledge of how to control insect populations without the use of pesticides. Top posts include “How to Inspect Your Hotel Room for Bed Bugs” and “Ask an Entomologist.” (Note: this is by Gwen Pearson, who for a long time, never revealed her true identity, not even at an Entomological Society of America meeting.)
Visit here for a blog by Illinois-based biologist and photographer Alex Wild. The blog's name is derived from the Greek word for ant and contains Alex's musings on the little creatures that share our planet. The galleries are a must see given Alex's love of both insects and his talent with a camera.
Insects in the City
Mike Merchant has served as entomology specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension since 1989. His areas of specialty involve research on the insects that effect people including spiders, scorpions, fire ants, termites, and others. Get pest control from an academic point of view by stopping at his blog.
This blog is named after a quote from Joseph Krutch on the human standpoint on insects. Alison also fills her blog with other discoveries on insects and closer looks at them. Everything from ants to wolf spiders are featured.
Butterflies of Singapore
Because some bugs can be downright beautiful, there is this blog. Get a look at “nature's flying jewels” without ever leaving your home. With entries dating back to 2007, there are loads of butterflies to see.
Living With Insects Blog
Jonathan Neal also has a Ph.D in entomology and teaches at Purdue University. His blog is devoted to the intersection of people and insects. Subjects such as fire ants, bees, and many more are often discussed.
Beetles In The Bush
Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. With entries on loads of common and uncommon household pests, his focus is of course the beetle. However, you can also find entries on items such as spiders, reptiles, and most recently, Bichos Argentinos.
Urban Dragon Hunters
These bloggers standout for targeting their insect research and blog towards the largely ignored urban areas. Located in Wayne County, Michigan, they have recorded 50 new species of odonata, or dragonflies. Stop by to see which and learn more about them.
Bug Squad is the blog of Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. This blog, launched in 2008, is part of the University of California's Agricultural and Natural Resources website. Check for the latest research and other information.
What's That Bug?
Also known as The Bugman, Daniel Marlos is the author of “The Curious World of Bugs.” With a healthy pest-free garden in Los Angeles, he is free to explore his love of bugs, as well as share useful pest control tips. Be sure not to miss specialty posts on just about every insect in the U.S.
And, be sure to check out the other winning blogs on the company's site.
Back to the ladybug. It's not really a bug. It's a beetle. That's why scientists want us to call it "lady beetle." You can read all about the lady beetle in UC IPM's Natural Enemies Gallery. UC IPM defines natural enemies as "organisms that kill, decrease the reproductive potential of, or otherwise reduce the numbers of another organism. Natural enemies that limit pests are key components of integrated pest management programs. Important natural enemies of insect and mite pests include predators, parasites, and pathogens."
Sometimes it's good to have an enemy, a natural enemy.
Inquiring minds want to know.
At least one inquiring mind wants to know.
Journalist/cultural entomologist Emmet Brady of Davis, who reaches out to bug and non-bug people alike on his Davis-based radio show, "Insect News Network," is hosting his annual Bug-of-the-Year contest through Jan. 14. You can hear his show Wednesdays from 4-5 p.m. and Fridays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on KDRT 95.7 FM, Davis.
Last year the Australian Peacock Spider won Brady's contest. A spider? That's perfectly fine. Spiders are not insects but they fit quit well into the "Bug of the Year" candidates. And, they have excellent credentials.
And speaking of peacock spiders, you should check out Gwen Pearson's blog on Charismatic Minifauna: New Species of Peacock Spider Dances for You--and Sex and watch the video of this fascinating spider. Pearson, who holds a doctorate in entomology, initially began blogging as "The Bug Girl."
Emmet Brady urges everyone to vote, and vote often. Access the vote page here. "You can vote as many times as you like, for as many bugs as you like," Brady says, "but only one per visit, however."
And the 25 contenders? Drum roll, please:
- Yellow-Headed Soldier Fly
- Green Lynx Spider
- Monarch Butterfly
- Oregon Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
- Madagascar Sunset Moth
- Salt Marsh Tiger Beetles in Love
- Variegated Meadowhawk Dragonfly
- Orchid Bee
- Tizsa Flower Mayflies
- Golden Spotted Oak Borer
- Long-nosed Fly
- Praying Mantis Sculpture
- Ogre-Faced Spider
- Honey Bee
- GM Mosquito
- Asian Citrus Psyllid
- T Mirror Spider
- Himalayan Spider
- Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
- The Map Butterfly
- Ant-Mimick Tree Hopper
- Bird-Dropping Spider
- Elephant Hawk-Moth Caterpillar
Brady kindly lists their qualifications. For example, he writes about the honey bee:
"The perennial candidate for the BOTY, the honey bee is perhaps the most important insect to human civilization. They represent in many ways a pinnacle of invertebrate evolution, as well as a complex and mystical interdependence with humans. The bee has significance in almost every facet of our existence: ecological, economic, spiritual, historical, psychological, artistic, biomimetic and sociological. Honey bees belong to the genus Apis, with 7 species worldwide. There were no 'true' honey bees in the Western Hemisphere until the 17th century. They embody a omnipresent contradiction in modern ecology: today, there are more honey bees on the planet than at any time in history. However, the use of bees as agricultural tools has led to mismanagement and disrespect, as their commercial numbers have plummeted as much as 60 percent in the past 20 years."
If none of these bugs is for you, wait--there's another one. It's called "other."
Just type in your favorite. Either way, this bug's for you.