Sunday, May 04, 2008


Despite their ickyness, bugs are really fascinating creatures. Insects, spiders, and other creepy crawlies make up most of the animal life on Earth, both by number AND by sheer mass. In fact, there are more different types of beetles alone than there are plant species! And insects have been around 350 million years longer than we have (humans only appeared 130,000 years ago). With bugs such a major part of our world, you might as well learn more about them. Who knows? You might even grow to like them.

The first step in finding out about the bugs around you, of course, is figuring out what kind you’ve got. That’s where the Web site What’s That Bug? comes in. Created as an art project by California photography professors Daniel Marlos and Lisa Anne Auerbach, here you’ll find gorgeous photos sent in by readers, with helpful (and often funny) comments. The British-based What’s This Caterpillar? has a North American section. Bug Guide is an online community of amateur naturalists hosted by Iowa State University Department of Entomology that collects information on where and when bugs are found for scientists’ use. The guide sorts its bug pictures by class (arachnids, insects, centipedes, etc.) and even includes a section on bugs that have immigrated from other countries, such as a tortoise beetle found on a bunch of bananas from Ecuador in a grocery store in New Mexico. Ask Dr. Bug doesn’t have a lot of photos, but you can email Entomology prof Bob Allen from California State University, Fullerton for an ID. (Dr. Bug says 95% turn out to be potato bugs, disturbingly human-featured cricket-like critters which, thankfully, only live in the Southwest and have their own site,

Articles on bugs (for reports or your own interest) can be found at sites like Bug Info, from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the Australian Museum Online, which offers nicely presented information and printable fact sheets on bugs from all over. Bug Bios is a unique site with photos, a Cultural Entomology that talks about bugs in art, literature, religion, etc., and an extensive links page.

Want to invite bugs to your backyard? Monarch Watch has a section on growing milkweed and other plants to create your own butterfly garden. If you’re thinking of keeping a bug as a pet, The Amateur Entomologists' Society has caresheets for everything from crickets to tarantulas. The retail site has tips for making your bugs cozy. EarthLife is a site with lots of links on bugs, including pet info. And the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Butterfly School tells you how to make your own butterfly house. If you’d rather visit bugs elsewhere, you can check out the MontrĂ©al Botanical Garden’s Insectarium, the largest in North America, which even looks like a bug when viewed from the tower of the nearby Olympic Stadium. Or you can watch live leafcutter ants scramble about their “formicary,” or glass ant case, at the London Natural History Museum’s Antcam.

Alright, so you don’t want to make friends with bugs. But you still might like to invite them to dinner – that is, if you’re an adventurous eater! The PBS TV series NOVA has a slideshow on people eating bugs around the world. And Iowa State University's Department of Entomology offers Tasty Insect Recipes like Banana Worm Bread and Chocolate Covered Grasshoppers. Of course, you don’t have to get that intimate with insects to appreciate them. But now that you know how interesting and beautiful they can be, you may not be so quick to squish the next bug you see.

EXTRA: Find links to bug crafts I made and demonstrated during my Bug House workshops at my website Crafts for Learning!

No comments: