On Wednesday, August 16th, Tara Cornelisse, an assistant professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, was invited by Grand Island's Citizens Coalition for Wildlife and the Environment to speak about insects. Here are some of the highlights of the presentation.
|From left, Tara Cornelisse of Canisius College|
and Nicole Gerber and Dave Reilly
of Citizens Coalition for Wildlife
and the Environment
What are insects?
Insects are arthropods or invertebrates, which means that they have an exoskeleton. Other invertebrates include spiders, ticks, scorpions, snails, and worms.
Insects have to have, at some point in their life cycle, six legs. They have three body parts: a head, an abdomen, and a thorax.
There are two ways that an insect can go from the egg stage to adult status. The first is called complete metamorphosis. The insects experience four stages of life: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. For butterflies, the four stages would be egg, caterpillar, cocoon, and adult butterfly. Other insects that go through a complete metamorphosis include beetle, ant, and bee.
Incomplete metamorphosis is the second way that the insect can go from the egg state to adult status. The stages are called egg, nymph, and adult. Insects that experience an incomplete metamorphosis include true bugs, beetles, praying mantises, cockroaches, and crickets.
Insects are our mini superheroes. They provide a vast collection of services. Unfortunately, many insects are at risk because we are changing the land by clearing it and building on it, resulting in habitat loss. Also, the use of pesticides is dangerous for insects.
Some of the services that insects provide are:
- pollination: done by insects and others, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This provides us with a diverse food supply.
- seed dispersal: ants do this. They carry seeds and place them underground.
- biological control: predator insects eat other insects, especially those that are a nuisance. For example the lacewing, a predator, eats the aphids, which are considered to be a nuisance.
- decomposition and nutrient cycling: not all termites eat houses. Some termites just eat dying and decaying logs.
- indicator species, such as may flies and sand flies, indicate the quality of water in nearby bodies of water.
- pharmaceuticals: Some consider honey to have healing qualities. In other cultures, cricket powder is considered to be a pharmaceutical.
Tomorrow: more about bees and monarch butterflies