Insects, Our Friends

Insects have been described as the little creatures that run the world, and there's a lot of truth to this seemingly simple statement. Insects are the principle pollinators of plants, and we would not have many of the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy if it were not for them.

Insects are food for many types of animals: birds, fish, small mammals (mice, shrews, bats and others), reptiles and amphibians, and spiders. Without insects, these animals would starve.

Insects are also the original recyclers, and keep our planet clean by recycling natural wastes like leaves, stumps and logs, animal carcasses and manure. Our planet would be a very different kind of place if it were not for all the activities of insects.

And they live everywhere: forests, jungles, grasslands, deserts, swamps, ponds and streams – even inside the bodies of other animals! There are lots of them, too. By current estimates, there may be as many as 10 million different kinds. The most common groups of insects are the beetles, butterflies and moths, ants, bees and wasps, flies, grasshoppers and crickets, and true bugs.

Here are some "buggy" activities for you to try:

• Make your own insect models out of paper mâché, styrofoam balls and shapes, pom-poms, cotton balls, walnut shells, clothes pins, felt, construction paper, bottle caps, pipe cleaners, buttons or glitter.

• Make simple collecting equipment like a net and bug "barn."

• Make flash cards of insect pictures; draw and color pictures of insects, or make an insect art gallery.

• Try the insect "alphabet" game; name an insect for each letter of the alphabet.

• Discuss these topics "If I were an insect … "; "What would it be like if there were no insects?"; "What kind of insect would I like to be?"; and "How am I different from an insect?"