This Thursday, June 20th from 5:30-7:00, the NRT will be hosting its monthly Family Science Outing and this month the topic is interesting insects! More often than not it is really easy to be put off by bugs and unfortunately, most people tend to squash them rather than step around them. However, insects are super interesting and totally underappreciated.
Let’s start with what is an insect? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an insect is defined as an invertebrate animal with three body parts (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of legs, and usually a pair or two of wings. Something important to note is that not all insects are “bugs”. We tend to use the word “bug” loosely and it is true that all bugs are insects. However, a bug is a very specific type of insect. The key difference between true bugs and other insects is that bugs have specialized mouthparts for sucking fluids from plants and animals. This mouthpart is known as a proboscis, and unlike the proboscis of a butterfly which can retract and roll up like a party blower, the proboscis of a true bug is unretractable and cannot roll up. Another featured trait of true bugs is that when they hatch from their eggs, they are called nymphs and not larvae. As a nymph they are simply a smaller version of their adult selves. Examples of true bugs are leafhoppers, stink bugs, cicadas and bed bugs!
Ever wonder why insects are everywhere? It’s because they are the most successful creatures on the planet! Scientists have estimated that of all the animals found on Earth, a staggering 90% of them are insects and they are found on every continent! At all times there are 10 QUADRILLION ants living on the planet alone! How are they so successful though? Most of them are pretty small, which means their energy requirements are minimal and they can easily hide from predators. Their bodies are also covered by a hard outer layer called the exoskeleton, acting like body army for an insect. Insects usually have wings to escape danger and find food, and they also have the extraordinary ability to reproduce rapidly.
Another thing that makes insects so interesting is their ability to breathe through their sides. They have holes in the exoskeleton called spiracles, and these holes is where oxygen enters and carbon dioxide leaves. Their circulatory systems are different too seeing as they don’t really have one. They don’t even have blood! What insects do have is hemolymph which flows openly throughout the body, not throughout veins and arteries like in humans. Talk about different, what about those eyes?! The compound eye of an insect has many individual parts working like pixels putting together a picture. The eye of a dragonfly permits it to have an almost 360 degree view of the world around it!
These are just a few examples of what makes insects special, but the list goes on and on! To learn more about them, please come to Sheep Pasture this Thursday, July 20th at 5:30 and join a NRT naturalist to explore these awesome animals!
To learn more about NRT's Family Science Outings, please click here!