Monday, September 15, 2008
Bug Class*** Updated
I just got home from my first day of a week-long Master Gardener Entomology Specialist Training. It was fabulous. So interesting. By the end of the week I should be able to identify the bug my husband found in my new herb bed. And I should know not to call it a bug but more properly an insect.
Until then, I thought I would keep track of some of the most fascinating tidbits of today's class.
--Ants walk in line by sending each other chemical cues.
--Insects are the most diverse form of life on the planet. There are 30 million species.
--Not all insects have wings but if you see an insect with wings, it is an adult and will not grow any more. In other words, if you see a small grasshopper with wings, it will not grow into a bigger grasshopper. If you see a larger grasshopper, it's a different species.
--Only female insects sting. They have ovapositors, an appendage for laying eggs and for defense. So if a fire ant stings you, it was a lady.
--The exoskeleton of insects keeps it from drying out, not from drowning, which is how diatomaceous earth kills many insects. It's a dessicant and makes holes in the exoskeleton allowing water to seep out.
--Horticultural oils work by clogging the spiracles and preventing insects from getting oxygen.
--The cicada shells that we often see around are the last molt of a cicada nymph. All the previous molts occurred underground. For the final molt the cicada grabs on to a sturdy surface, like Iris's signs, splits through its head, and then continues the molt down the body.
--Even bug geeks like to have fun: Q. Wheeler and K. Miller named three species of slime mold beetles: Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi, and Agathidium rumsfeldi. They claim the naming is an homage.
--A German cockroach can lay up to 36 eggs at one time.
--There are many different types of fleas including cat fleas, dog fleas, squirrel fleas, and rat fleas. Some fleas are very species specific.
--Most fleas in Texas are cat fleas, which will live on any furred animal. If you have fleas but no furred pets, you've got a furred animal somewhere in your house.-)
--Some flies have no mouth parts so they die fairly quickly after reaching adulthood.
The rest of the week will include specimen gathering--we get a really cool insect kit with the class--at a few spots around town, and detailed information on more classes of insects. I can't wait!
***Gee, do I have frass on my face! My mystery bug not only isn't a bug it's not even an insect. It's a spider, a jumping spider. Spiders and insects are both anthropods, but spiders are not insects. I actually learned this yesterday (and probably knew it before and had forgotten) but had forgotten again by last night.
I think one of the reasons I've so enjoyed learning about all gardening aspects is that I know so little. After years of accumulating more knowledge in narrower areas, it's refreshing--and completely humbling--to jump into a new arena. And because I care less about looking like a fool as I age, I have no problem asking questions and revealing my utter ignorance.
But I still appreciate Annie in Austin's very sweet way of letting me know I know so little!