The Saratoga Sun -

By Abby Perry
University of Wyoming Extension Carbon County Office 

Giving insects a closer look


A couple years ago my husband enrolled in some entomology classes at the University of Wyoming. He would come home and say things such as, “All these years we’ve been calling ladybugs by the wrong name; they were actually ladybird beetles,” and “All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. At first, I thought he was a little loopy, but the more he talked, the more interested I became.

For class assignments, he was supposed to collect insects to aid in identification and classification. We started collecting insects on “little dates” walking around the block and took Sunday drives into the mountains. We even packed collections jars in our luggage for our international trips (to countries that allow you to collect without permits). Eventually we put together collections for our baby’s nursery. Insects are so cool!

Grabbing a couple mason jars and hitting the hills is a great way to break-up an afternoon with kids or add a little variety to a summer camping trip. You don’t have to be an entomology nerd to learn to appreciate insects. Giving insects a closer look, or collecting a gnarly-looking bug can aid in pest identification, identifying the “good guys”, or even starting a 4-H project.

In the height of summer, more often than not, some invader has moved into the garden and has begun some undesirable munching. It isn’t always obvious what the insect is, much less how to control the little booger. By staking out the point of interest, a gardener can collect the insect physically or get a focused, detailed photograph and bring it into the local extension office for identification. By identifying the pest, the gardener can better understand how, when, and at what rate to treat the pest.

It can be equally difficult to identify the “good guys” in the garden that eat pests. Identifying these insects is especially important so that the gardener can make good management decisions. Some insecticides are non-discriminate; they control the pests, but also damage desirable insects.

Through the 4-H entomology project, youth may learn about insects and arthropods, where insects live (soil, plants, homes, or pets), insect parts, classification, and management, how to collect, preserve, and label insects, and about different types of flies.

If you know a youth who might be interested in an entomology project, there are many resources available to help ensure the youth’s success and continued interest in entomology. Contact your local extension office about how to get started.

Beware, learning about insects may turn you into an entomology enthusiast! You may find yourself engaging in an entirely different dinner conversation. But learning more about insects is sure to help you become a more conscientious gardener and see the outdoors from a whole new point of view. If you are interested in learning more, check out some great University of Wyoming publications at


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