Day #8: Entomology – Speaking of Bugs


There’s a lot of variation out there.

Oh, really?

That must be why the monster pictured below is actually a six-legged insect.


Tobacco hornworm (head, lower left) on my notebook.

(Yes, I know. All insects have six legs. It’s part of the definition. I was simply pointing out the contrast between the 16-legged tobacco hornworm caterpillar and the adult Manduca sexta moth.)

Lessons Learned

  • Focus on the body parts, because that’s how we identify insects. And you cannot deal with an insect pest problem unless you can accurately describe the pest.
    • For example, my classmates described a photo of an insect taped to my back this way: Brown, six legs, two eyes, overlapping wings on top, jointed spurred tibia and two curved antennae. Did you guess American cockroach? Neither did I. And I’m allergic to them, although not to their pictures, that I am aware of.)
  • So, insects come in three parts: (Front to back, they are head, thorax and abdomen.)
    • Unlike humans, insects have their skeletons on the outside (exoskeleton), hence the crunching noise when step on them.
  • Attached to those main sections are antennae, compound eyes, mouth parts, wings, legs and sexual bits PLUS built-in tubes that take in oxygen. Be prepared to describe all these parts, or just take a photo with your cell phone.
  • Insects attack us (and other buggy enemies) by biting (mouth) or stinging (butt).
  • Believe  it or not, but a praying  mantis can kill and consume a humming bird. Now that is interesting, but not for the faint of heart.
  • Eradication is not an option when dealing with insect pests. Control is the most you can hope for.
  • Your control strategy should include three parts:
    • Monitoring (regularly)
    • Hand control, aka the two-bricks tactic
    • Next least toxic control measure
  • The number of gardeners who are queasy around caterpillar poop (see “frass” below) seems to be greater than the number of people who don’t like picking up caterpillars.


  • manduca_sexta_male_sjh

    Adult tobacco hornwork moth. Note family resemblance to caterpillar above. Source: Wikipedia.

    Frass – BEST VOCAB WORD EVER. It means insect poop.

  • Stridulation – Rubbing body parts together to create a sound. Most commonly associated with insects (six-legged bugs), but spiders, snakes and fish also do it. (Makes you wonder just which parts a snake has to rub together.)



Read chapter on Water Quality. Treat one bug nice.

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