Insect Ecology for the Experiential Gardener
The wonder and practical nature of insects in the garden
Insect Connect is intended to help you become familiar with the insects in and around your garden or yard, mostly focused on the San Francisco Bay Area. Here we cover the basics of what makes an insect an insect. The Photo Gallery page provides a photo album of insects found across the Bay Area. If you've caught or seen an insect, you can scroll through the Photo Gallery page to see if you can find a similar insect type. Once you've narrowed down the type of insect, the Insect Identification page can help you get a more specific ID for some insects (this page will continue to grow with time). If you have ever wondered what a lacewing chowing-down on an aphid looks like, check out the Insect Videos page. The Science in the Garden section provides some fun science-based activities for various ages, including full lesson plans. Feel free to use for educational purposes; however, please cite UC Cooperative Extension as your source. Finally, the Resources page provides links to other insect related sites you might find useful or just fun. Enjoy the bug discovery!
What is an insect?
Insects make up over 90% of the animal species on Earth, and yet, go unnoticed by many people. There are insects all around you, many of them providing beneficial services to people everyday. As you learn more and more about insects, you will start seeing them everywhere!
There are 4 things that all insects have in common:
1) three body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen
2) 2 antennae (used for sensing the world)
Harlequin bug (Murgantia histrionica)
3) 3 pairs of legs (6 total legs, 3 on each side)
Long leg fly, Dolichopodidae sp.
4) an exoskeleton (it's like having your skeleton on the outside, or a body of armor)
Insects are vitally important to gardening and agriculture. They provide pest control services, pollination, and decompose decay things to recycle nutrients (just to name a few). This website focuses on pollinators, natural enemies, and common garden insects.
Pollinators pollinate flowers, allowing fruit to form. Pollinators are responsible for about 1 in 3 bites of you food you eat. Thanks to their service, our diet options are much more colorful!
Sweat bee (Halictius sp.)
Natural enemies eat insects that we consider pests, usually those insects that eat our gardens! Natural enemies help keep pest populations low and can reduce the need for synthetic insecticides.
Convergent lady beetle (Hipodamia convergens)
Pollinators and natural enemies are almost certainly present in your garden. If you know how to look for them and identify them, you will start to see them everywhere! This site is organized to help you do just that. In the Science in the Garden section, there are instructions and data sheets you can use to count and keep track of your insects over time.