Let's engage youth in the secret life of little critters and build habitats to co-exist with nature
Insects are ancient creatures. They are among the earliest groups of critters to make life on land and to occupy vast habitats on ground as well as in water. This dragonfly fossil is from Jurassic period when it shared the earth with dinosaurs. Moths appeared 130 million years ago while butterflies appeared 82 million years ago. By contrast, humans came into existence about 1 million years ago.
Kids mostly view insects as gross with a certain amount of fear factor around them. Yet, most of the material available in books or online is directed at older audiences. Let's break this stereotype and make kids excited about insects.
A Smithsonian Institute article estimates that there are "10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000 or a billion billion) insects at any time." Nature gifted them with unique adaptations like (A) Dual Locomotion with 2 pair of wings and 3 pair of legs to seek food, shelter, explore new places and escape from enemies; and (B) Great Defense mechanisms such as Beetles with hard front wings, known as elytra, to protect them from birds, presence of protective bright colors and defensive chemicals. e.g. Bees producing venom.
Then why save insects?
Because, of the 900,000 known species of insects (80% of all animal species) some like the Simandoa cave roach, which is considered as extinct in the wild, are so unique that they were found in a single cave system in Africa which was destroyed for mining. Similarly, the Palos Verdes blue is an endangered butterfly found only in the Palos Verdes Peninsula of Los Angeles making it one of the world's rarest butterflies.
The situation is becoming worst. Human waste from plastic pollution is everywhere and is affecting every animal big or small alike. For example, this image shows the amount of micro-plastics in the abdomen of a mosquito (see here). We need to study the effects of plastics on insects to understand how this may affect the entire food chain.
As they say, a few bad apples spoils the bunch. Harmful insects constitute only 2% - 3% of all insect species. Yet, they have led people to consider all insects as pests.
Change begins at home. Let's create awareness about these beautiful creations of nature and change people's perspective. The goal is to show case importance of insects in the food cycle, highlight at-risk population from loss of habitat and study the effects from global warming on local insect population.
Another approach is to promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a technique that homeowners and schools can implement by focusing not on killing insects but really making the home and school environment less attractive to insects so that they go elsewhere. If the use of pesticides is essential, follow recommended guidelines (see sample Guideline1 and Guideline2).
Let's partner to make the world around us a better place.
Did you know that the nine-spotted ladybug is the State insect of New York? This handy beetle has gone missing for decades. The Monarch butterfly, known for their 2,000 mile migration in Fall, is at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. If the trend continues, it may go extinct in a few decades.
My name is Anusha. I am a fourth-grader from New York and I love insects. I spend much of my free time learning and teaching others about insects. My fascination with insects grew after learning about them in school. I was curious to know more.
Insects come in all shapes and sizes. Some have bright shells while others have soft bodies. Some have wings while others have spots. No matter how different, they are fascinating to me. Each insect plays an integral role in the environment.
I go to different places to discuss the sharp decline in insect population and benefits of urban landscapes to humans and insects alike. I have spoken at India's most prestigious agricultural institute IARI, Entomological Society of America, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Sarah Lawrence College, Savannah Bee Company, New York Hall of Science, American Museum of Natural History, Clearwater Festival, Yonkers Science Barge, Nature Girls, Girl Scouts, Town Hall and several schools. Recently, I gave a radio interview with station WBAI 99.5FM NYC as an environmental activist. I have been featured in a news article and was recognized by the Audubon Society. I have organized a Little Critters club for kids in Grades K-5 and helped plan the Earth Day event in our town. My efforts have helped me earn a Green Medallion Award.
In March 2020, I will participate in a Youth Climate Action Summit in New York (sponsored by the United Nations) to discuss the need to protect insect population with other young environmental leaders.
On this website, learn some awesome fun facts like modern cockroaches evolved around the Cretaceous period, yup . . . alongside T-Rex. Queen termite can lay 6,000 - 7,000 eggs per day for 15 long years, Honey Bees make 10 million trips just to produce one pound of honey, Corn aphid produce 16 nymphs per female that reach adulthood within 16 days and only female mosquitoes bite. Did you know Monarch caterpillars eat only a unique plant called as "milkweed"? No milkweed, no monarch butterfly.
Join my quest for insects conservation.
My TV Interview on News 12
My Call for Action at Westchester Board of Legislators
My Radio Interview on station WBAI 99.5FM NYC
Mention in LoHud for my Insect exhibit
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Researchers from University of Sydney reviewed 73 studies across many European or American countries and found that many insect species are in decline across the world. Further, the study reported a 2.5% annual rate drop in biomass calculated across UK, Germany, Puerto Rico and Netherlands. At this rate, insects will disappear in a century. However, while most insects are declining in numbers a small proportion are increasing and will survive.