I usually start my Master Gardener entomology training classes with the same question: “How many of you have dreaded insect training because you hate bugs?” Inevitably, a few honest people will raise their hands. It seems that there is little love to lose between many adults and insects.
On the other hand, unless kids have been pre-programmed by adults, they’re just as likely to be fascinated, as they are to be repelled, by bugs.
That’s what I thought about as I read the report from the Entomological Society of America’s most recent regional meeting in Las Cruces, NM. Over 1,200 kids attended this week’s event hosted by entomologists from across the southwest. Besides engaging in insect art projects, betting on insect races, and handling large millipedes, scorpions and cockroaches, participants were also invited to nibble on tasty cooked insects (When a similar event came to Dallas many years ago, I was astounded that my fussy-eater daughter, a sixth-grader at the time, joined other friends in tasting fried mealworms. The power of peer pressure is impressive!).
The point of all this is that, when presented in the right way, kids are usually fascinated by insects. And that’s a good thing. As our children get more and more isolated from wild places, and encounters with wildlife in natural settings, arthropods are one type of wild life that is eminently accessible. One need travel no further than the backyard to find roly polys and caterpillars, beetles and flies, buttereflies and bumblebees. When presented the right way by a wise adult, these encounters can lead to greater interest in natural things. And if our world needs anything right now, it’s a new generation with interest in and sympathy for the green world.
Check out the story if you have time. And next time a child brings you an insect from the garden, don’t go YUCK. Instead, take a minute to retrieve a magnifying class and look at the minute legs and antennae, and marvel at the colors and weird designs that would delight an animator designing the latest adventure flick. You’ll both be the richer for it.