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The Link Librarian

by Gayla Thorsen

Quiz time! Get your pencil or pen and circle the true statement(s) listed below:
A) With over one million different species identified, insects are the dominant group of animals on earth today.
B) It has been estimated that there are as many as 230 million insects on the surface and in the top nine inches of soil in an acre of meadowland.
C) Insects help to keep the soil healthy and aerated. (Answers are at the end of this article. No peeking!)

A note before we start INSECTS - Part I:

I recommend that the parent/guardian read the books suggested before handing them to their children. You must decide which books will be appropriate for your children.

Now, let’s start with some general reference books. For two pocket guides, we found An Instant Guide to Insects - The most familiar species of North American insects described and illustrated in color by Pamela Forey and Cecilia Fitzsimons, 125 pages (1987, Bonanza Books).

This guide has details on identifying the insects, where the insects are located, how many species there are, and its size. There is even a small symbol on the page to indicate if the insect bites or not. A plus with small children around!

My First Pocket Guide - Insects by Daniel J. Bickel, 80 pages (1996, National Geographic Society) What I liked about this guide was the actual photographs of each insect featured in the guide. Each insect has Where to find, What to look for, and Field Notes sections.

For example, the Field Cricket: A short description says that the male field crickets make their chirping sounds by rubbing their front wings together. They also have long, powerful back legs for jumping. Where to find section shows a map to locate field crickets and it mentions that you can look for them on lawns, roadsides, in the woods and in fields.

What to look for section has the following categories: size, color, other features, and behavior. Under Field Notes, the passage says that some field crickets chirp faster when the weather is warmer, and slower in the colder weather.

These two guidebooks plus similar reference works you can find at the library will give you an overview of the insect world.

Since there are so many species, find out which ones your children want to study and also which ones are found in your local area. You will want to examine real specimens during your study of insects.

Before you start your first lesson, you may want to get some educational materials from the Entomological Society of America. You can reach them at 9301 Annapolis Road, Lanham, MD 20706-3115, (301) 731-4535, e-mail and website at

The materials they sent me were Bug Briefs, their publications, catalog, and an application form for youths to become a member of the Society.

Some of the topics from Bug Briefs contained Autumn Observations of Bugs, Beetles, Indoor Insect Scouting, and Monarch Butterflies.

The publications catalog, 56 pages, includes an extensive index to find a book, video or software on whatever topic you choose. There is even a full color, 13 month calendar called World of Insects for $12.95 plus shipping. (I mention this because my son is always looking for real pictures of insects so this may help someone else in their search.)

Next, we need coloring books. The above catalog has one with 80 pages for $4.95 plus shipping. You can also purchase Insects Coloring Book, 45 pages, from Dover Publications, Inc., 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501-3582, for $2.95 plus shipping. you may also find some at your local store or those that carry educational materials.

The Big Bug Search by Caroline Young and illustrated by Ian Jackson was a very big hit. This is a puzzle book where you need to find certain bugs in the pictures. The illustrations are detailed and life-like. Information is given about many of the insects featured and where they live in the world.

For example, we learn that young bugs are often called nymphs or larvae. Answers to the puzzles and even an index are included in this 32 page, 13” x 9 1/2” book available from Scholastic.

Nature Club Insects by Althea (1990, Troll Associates) is a short 32 page book packed with lots of illustrations and detailed descriptions of insect life. A glossary and index help with bold-faced words and in finding which insect you want to study about.

Poems about insects? Look for Insectlopedia by Douglas Florian, 48 pages (1998, Harcourt Brace and Company). From ants to weevils, each entertaining poem has a watercolor painting for each insect described. Some of the pictures have hidden messages. The crickets are happily playing fiddles - on themselves!

What about folklore? Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema is an amusing story about how a mosquito caused a lot of trouble. I even found a movie based on the book at the school library.

“Queen ants can lay up to 30,000 eggs a month for ten years. Queen bees can lay 3,000 eggs a day. When building their underground nests, Leaf-Cutter Ants move enough dirt to fill up a big living room in a human’s house.”

These are some quotes you will see in Planet Ant by Planet Dexter editors. Besides the 48 page spiral-bound book, you’ll also get an ant farm container, sand and a coupon to send for live ants. (Or use locally grown ants.)

This book describes the habits and skills of ants, ant trivia, the social life of ants, how to observe ants and some safe experiments to try. The illustrations will make you laugh but at the same time you learn a lot. We had fun with this kit.

Here’s the address in case you can’t find one locally: The Editors of Planet Dexter, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, One Jacob Way, Reading, MA 01867 or e-mail at Bad Ants by Chris Van Allburg. See common kitchen items through the eyes of two ants in search of food and adventure.

For some ideas on hands-on activities, see The Bug Book by Robin Bernard, 88 pages, by Scholastic. This book is loaded with lots of insect experiments, reproducibles, literature links, and a big full-color poster.

Two magazines with insect names are Cricket and Ladybug. Both can be reached at Cricket Magazine Group, P.O. Box 300, 315 Fifth Street, Peru, IL 61354 for sample copy requests and/or subscription rates. Of course, I found them at the local library. These two magazines feature stories, science and puzzles for the younger children to enjoy.

Some video selections that we found at the library:
Way Cool Creepy Crawlers shows various insects and their interesting habits.
Tell Me Why - Insects explores different questions and their answers that children asked about insects.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids features four children who befriend an ant which they use to help them get back home.
James and the Giant Peach is about a boy and a group of insects who travel in a giant peach.
>By now everyone has seen Antz and A Bug’s Life. The titles say it all.

From the internet: An insect mini unit for primary grades I located at Children will hear stories about insects, paint insects and learn insect facts.

Stay tuned for PART II - bees, butterflies, and more resources.

Did you read a great book you just have to tell us about? Or did your children enjoy reading a book they couldn’t put down? Let’s share it with our readers. Are you looking for books on a certain topic? Send that in, too.

Some future topics will be math, oceans and the classics. What books/resources have you found on these topics?

Send all questions and book referrals to me at: Gayla Thorsen, P.O. Box 173, Fort Kent Mills, ME 04744. Or e-mail at with “Link Librarian” in the subject line.

Happy Reading!

(Note: Answer to Insect Quiz: ALL statements, A, B, and C were correct!)

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