Did You Know… Jones County Kids Become Insect Scientists

— Written By Nicole Sanchez and last updated by Pam Brylowe

In July, Jones County Cooperative Extension helped thirty-two youngsters become entomologists for a week at a recent Insect Camp. This week-long science camp helped increase students’ understanding and appreciation of the insects around us.

Participants from age 5 to 13 designed and created an insect complete with habitat, food, and predators; learned to distinguish insect predators from plant-eaters; collected insects in different habitats; and mounted insects for collection. One popular feature was the use of microscopes to look at insect parts close up; many students reported never having used a microscope before. One study focus was making connections between the anatomy of insect parts and their function. The use of the microscopes really helped the young entomologists make the connections between form and function of the insect body.

Throughout camp, students had earned “money bugs” (plastic insects) for acts of good citizenship, correctly answering insect trivia questions, making astute connections from lectures, or sporting gear like t-shirts or hats featuring insects. “Money bugs” were used at camp’s end to purchase collecting supplies, mounted insects for collections, traps and insect-themed toys.

Another popular feature of the camp were the three insect collecting field trips, each in a different location to provide access to a wide variety of insects. Students collected with sweep nets, beat sheets, and a few brave youngsters even tried out aspirators, using suction to collect termites and flea beetles. Dragonflies, butterflies  and June beetles were the most sought-after insects during these excursions.

Eddie and Anthony Almanza, and Sarah and Samantha Mills mount insects with assistance from Insect Camp instructor Nicole Sanchez.

Eddie and Anthony Almanza, and Sarah and Samantha Mills mount insects with assistance from Insect Camp instructor Nicole Sanchez.

Many students exhibited a marked transformation by the second collecting session: they were much more comfortable handling insects, removing them from nets and transferring them to vials to be frozen, even plucking stinkbugs and beetles off plants with their fingers.

Each student took home an insect net, mounting board, and other collecting supplies to continue pursuing newly awakened entomological interests. At the end of the camp, the students were asked to reflect on their camp experiences. One participant summed it up best:  “Before this, a bug was a bug. Now I understand there are many kinds of insects each with their own features, purpose, and predators. I appreciate insects a lot more now.”

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

Nicole Sanchez, Commercial Horticulture Agent, wrote this article for the August 8, 2013 issue of the Jones Post.