Saturday, October 4, 2014

Master Naturalist Training, part two

Insects!
Dr. Cole Gilbert, who teaches entomology at Cornell University, gave us a lot of information about insects. Insects belong to the animal kingdom. In fact, 75 percent of the animals of this earth belong to Class Insecta. 
Unfortunately, the relationship between humans and insects is not always harmonious. As an example, when I was on the bus, heading back to Buffalo, I noticed a flying insect crawling on the window next to the seat in front of me. I noticed it and I watched what it was doing. For sure, it was not threatening anyone. The humans... well, that was another story. A person two rows up from me reached back and, with a rolled up paper, prepared to whack the insect.
I said, apparently too softly to be heard, "Don't kill the..."
WHACK! The insect had been killed. 
The woman sitting next to the now-deceased bug said, "Thank you."
Apparently, she was afraid of the insect.
That is a common fear.
Many people don't know enough about insects to recognize their value.
So I was fortunate enough to learn about insects.
There is great diversity in the insect world. There are 350,000 species of beetles and a total of one million insect species. Insects are arthropods, with exoskeletons and jointed legs.
Some insects fly and others live under the ground. Insects are useful creatures. We can't live without them. Some insects, the ones that live beneath the ground, are decomposers. They eat the organic matter that exists below the ground and recycle it to nourish the soil and to facilitate the growth of new plants. Some insects are pollinators. The most well known of the pollinators are the honey bees and the bumble bees and the butterflies. They go from flower to flower, carrying the pollen. This helps the plants to bear fruit. In fact, only ten percent of all plants are pollinated without assistance. Peaches, pears, apples, zucchini, etc., need pollination so that we can enjoy the wonderful fruits. Wasps and other insects that we might not see as overly lovable also are pollinators. They may not be lovable but they are useful and they help us to get nutrition and to live.
Insects also produce things that we enjoy. Honey bees produce... what else?... honey. Apparently, not all honeys are alike. The honey tastes different, depending on which plant the bee had been pollinating. For example, buckwheat honey is dark and has a stronger flavor while clover honey is lighter and more delicate.



Insects produce silk. Silkworms are the immature larval stage of a moth. A certain type of moth, the Bombyx mori, now exists only in captivity. It has given rise to an entire industry of silk production. Silk is a wonderfully soft material that is a pleasure to wear. 
Shellac is another product made by insects. It is made from the secretions of the laccifer scale. A scale insect is a very tiny insect without visible legs or antenna. These insects are tiny and red. These insects swarm a few types of tree, which grow mainly in India and Thailand. 
Shellac is used as a wood sealer and a finisher. It is not toxic and can be used to coat a variety of things that we consume, including candy and fruit. For more information about the life of a little shellac producing bug, take a look at  the life of shellac producing insects.
Well, no instruction about insects would be complete without a Bug Hunt. To my great glee, each member of the group was equipped with a butterfly net. I've always wanted to hunt bugs with a butterfly net. I can now cross that off my bucket list... or do it again... whichever I choose. 
We went into a meadow colorful with late summer flowers. They are all indigenous to the area and they encourage bees and other pollinators to visit them. And we collected insects. It was great fun and, as a bonus, it had even stopped raining!

6 comments:

Susan Evans said...

My kids have always been fascinated by insects. It's interesting how much good insects do for the earth!

Daniela Pesconi-Arthur said...

Hi Alice! I must confess that I'm not a bit lover of insects. I don't like flies, for example, or ants. But I love butterflies and ladybirds and bees! Our garden is full of them! :)

Alyce Eccentrick said...

Hi Daniela, I am very happy to hear that you have butterflies and ladybirds and bees. They are great for your garden!
I will also admit that I am not fond of flies or ants when they get into the house. They are annoying and not very sanitary so I would prefer it if they would stay outdoors!

Lady Lou, www.RamblinwithLadyLou.com said...

Thank you, Alice, for the wonderful information about insects, and your beautiful photos. You are very talented. As a Master Gardener I fully appreciate insect's role in our daily lives. Just keep them out of my house! Keep up the good work.

The Travelling 3o said...

Very informative post insect! Love your photos too :)

Alyce Eccentrick said...

Thank you very much, everyone for your comments. They are much appreciated. Lady Lou, I am a Master Gardener, too!
alice

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