Family Bug Hunt: Finding and Identifying Insects Around Us

By Ciara Utech

So you hear and see all types of insects around you every time you are outside. You may have realized, finding these insects may be really fun for your family, especially if you have kids. However, with so many hiding places, where do you even start looking?

Looking for insects is actually extremely easy. If you can find an area with bright flowers, you will find all types of insects. Bees, wasps, and a lot of colorful beetles will be on the flowers. You can go stand by a tree and if you watch real closely for a minute you will most likely find a colony of ants working very hard. Find a fallen limb that’s stuck in mud? Lift it up and you may be lucky enough to find grubs, which are the larvae of beetles and they are really interesting to look at. If you are near water from a lake or creek sit close to the ground and just observe around the edges, especially if there are leaves lying close to the water’s edge. Usually a lot of insects will be exploring in these leaves and they find much of their food near the water. While you are sitting there, watch the water. Many insects raise their larvae in it. The larvae as well as adults eat tiny fish and other insects. However adults have to create an air bubble on their abdomen (back end) to hunt in the water unlike the larvae that naturally breathe water.

Identifying insects can be rather difficult but there are a few basics almost anyone could use. First of all an insect has 3 body segments (Head, thorax, and abdomen) and 6 legs. True Bugs, which are in their own group, have 2 body segments and 6 legs. Now moving forward. If an insect has a stinger, then it’s either an ant, bee, or wasp. If right after its head, it has an upside-down triangle, called a scutellum, in between the wings, this means you have found a “True Bug”. If you see an insect with hard wings, then it flies and you see clear wings underneath (or just look for 2 pairs of wings), this is a beetle. Although not all beetles successfully fly, some can only flutter. If it has a piercing mouth part (called a beak), such as a mosquito, its either is a type of fly or a type of bug.

A great example of a True Bug is none other than the Stink Bug. Stink bugs are found throughout the United States. They sport the scutellum better than all the other bugs in my opinion. Stinkbugs are notorious for their smell that they use when in danger. However this smell also helps attracts mates as well as help bugs of the same species recognize each other. How great it that? They use their beak to pierce flowers. They then send digestive juices into the plant to make a nice liquid meal, and then they drink it. Although their smell can be intimidating, you can get very close to these great bugs with no smelly outcome, as long as you do not touch them.

Another great insect to check out is the Dung Beetle. This little black beetle is quite amazing. These beetles can live in all types of environments around the world. They like to collect dung from herbivores or even sometimes omnivores. It is because of this, that they are called dung beetles. However they are better known for their famous rolling of the dung. When the beetle has found the appropriate food, it will start to gather it, rolling it into a ball with its back feet. Many beetles can live together. So when they are getting their ball, they must hurry or else another beetle may steal their it. This ball is used as food, which can be stored away in the ground. Interestingly, these also serve as a safe haven for the female’s brood of eggs. Considering the dung has plant material in it, when the dung is buried in the ground, it gives the soil nutrients. Words really cannot quite express how fascinating these beetles are. In that case, if you see a dung beetle, take the time to sit and watch it. You will probably end up laughing at the little antics the beetles pull on each other to get the best dung balls.

The world of insects is fascinating to say the least. Every family of insects is extremely diverse. If you find insects which peak your interest, you can pin them and have your own insect collection to show to your friends and family. Looking for insects can be fun at any age. The options are limitless.

Read Ciara's blog post: Spring and the Great Insect Reveal

About Ciara Utech:
Ciara Utech is an expert on insects, reptiles and other wildlife. She has experience at both a zoo and an aquarium and worked with everything from elephants to sea cucumbers. Ciara now works to educate about conservation of wildlife, in part by writing about the adventures of discovering the world around us.

You can read more great articles at her blog: Wildlife-N-Critters