Let's Talk About Insects

Teacher's Guide

Getting Ready

Talk about insects with your child(ren) before you begin to use the Let's Talk About Insects website.

Determine how much is known and ask the following:

  • What is an insect?
  • Where do insects come from?
  • What good are insects to us?
  • What makes a bug an insect?
  • What does an insect need to live?
  • What do insects eat?
  • How many insects are there?

Take a Look at Let's Talk About Insects

This website is designed for students to explore the basic knowledge needed to understand insects. As students go through the information, they will be acquiring skills to better understand the role of insects in our environment.

Anticipatory Guidance for the Study of Insects

Begin by talking with the students about insects. Take a walk in the school yard, in a park, or on a sidewalk and look for insects. Notice where they live. Make sure the students have a full sensory experience. What do they see, feel, hear, and smell?

Insect Facts Children Should Know

1. All insects hatch from tiny eggs. Insects need food, water and protection from the elements in order to grow successfully. As an insect feeds and grows on the inside, there comes a time when further growth is restricted by the hard external shell (exoskeleton) which does not grow. To overcome this problem – they shed their exoskeleton and replace it with a larger one.

When an insect molts, the old exoskeleton splits down the back and the insect wiggles its way out of its covering. A new, larger shell will form in a matter of hours. After the molt is complete, the insect resumes feeding and begins to grow inside again. Soon, another molt will be required. Insects may shed their exoskeletons from 4-40 times in their lives. Once an insect becomes a full-grown adult, however, it stops growing and molting.

2. What do insects eat? There are insects that eat live plants (roots, stems, leaves and sap), paper, seeds, fruits, fabrics, other small animals, the blood of larger animals, dead animals and manure.

3. The insects are amazing change artists. This process of changing shape is known as metamorphosis. There are actually two ways that insects can “change shapes” by incomplete metamorphosis or by complete metamorphosis. During incomplete metamorphosis, the insects change their shape gradually each time they shed their exoskeleton. As the young insects grow, they look more and more like their parents.

With metamorphosis, the insects go through a magnificent change from young to adult. The young insects that develop this way look very different from their parents. The best example is the caterpillar that changes into a beautiful butterfly or moth. The actual change from caterpillar to butterfly takes place within a protective chrysalis. During incomplete metamorphosis the only noticeable change is in size. The young insect, called a nymph, looks almost identical to the adult. After shedding its exoskeleton a number of times, it soon reaches the size of an adult.

The young (known as larvae) insects that go through complete metamorphosis have special names because they look so different from their parents. We call the larvae of butterflies and moths, caterpillars; the larvae of flies, maggots; and the larvae of beetles, grubs. Young insects never have wings, so this is one way we can tell insect larvae from their parents.

4. Some insects can communicate with each other, but without talking. Some use special chemical odors (called pheromones) to “talk” to each other and help find one another. Others communicate with visual signals – like the fireflies with their flashing lights. Other insects communicate with sound – they make noises, and in a few cases even sing to each other.

5. Some insects live alone, but some live in large groups or colonies. Honeybees, ants, some wasps, and termites live in large communities that function like tiny cities. Each insect in the colony has a job – some gather food, some build nests, some do the housecleaning, some care for the young, and others are soldiers that protect the colony from intruders.

Introduction | Statewide Standards | Getting Ready | Classroom Activities

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