Are your kids fascinated by the many six-legged, creeping and crawling and flying critters designed by the Master Creator? Then you just might be raising a future entomologist. I know because I happen to be married to one! And he loved bugs and insects from the time he could barely walk, remembers his mom.
Entomology is the scientific study of insects and is a branch of zoology. And what an enormous and diverse study it encompasses! According to a Smithsonian Institute post, approximately nine hundred thousand different kinds of insects can be found all over the world, with a rough guess of more than thirty million living species. And entomologists estimate that at least a couple million have yet to be identified, with most of them hiding incognito in various tropical forests, undiscovered.
That’s a lot of insects, right?
Insects have three body parts. The head houses the mouthparts, eyes, and a pair of antennae. The thorax usually has three pairs of jointed legs, six total, and usually one or two pairs of wings. The abdomen contains vital organs, like the digestive, excretory, and reproductive organs.
Insects also have an external skeleton, called an “exoskeleton.”
Many insects look quite different when comparing the beginning of their life cycle to their last stage. Insects that go through complete metamorphosis have four different life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Some insects that exhibit complete metamorphosis include beetles, wasps, bees, and fleas.
Insects like cockroaches and dragonflies go through incomplete metamorphosis, with fewer and less drastic changes as they develop into adults.
Insects can be loosely categorized into various groups for the purpose of study that include, but aren’t limited to, parasitic insects, agricultural pests, beneficial insects, carrion feeders, and household pests.
Insects that feed on other living things are considered parasitic insects. Mosquitoes can transmit a host of diseases like malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, and yellow fever, after feeding on the blood of an infected animal and then biting another animal. The parasitic kissing bug can transmit Chagas disease, and fleas are known vectors of plague, serious bacterial infections that sometimes spread rampantly.
Varied entomological careers focus on parasitic insects. As a medical entomologist for the United States Navy, my husband traveled throughout South America and Africa, studying the insects that inhabited those areas as well as the related diseases prevalent in those areas. He compiled his findings in reports that could be referenced at a moment’s notice when troops needed to move into a certain area, requiring certain inoculations and medication regimens for their physical protection.
Closer to home, many states in the United States, especially in the south, require Mosquito Control Districts to protect residents in areas rife with the buzzing and biting, disease-carrying insects.
Farmers often need entomology help with insect pests that damage crops and can even wipe out an entire harvest, if not treated properly. Locust swarms can accomplish great damage in a short amount of time. True bugs suck the sap from plants, damaging and destroying them. And potato bugs can devour an entire plant from the stalk all the way to the fruit.
Entomologists with the Department of Agriculture help farmers know just what pesticides to safely apply to their crops to rid them of damaging pests.
Insects like honeybees, bumblebees, and moths help with the pollination of plants. Other insects like the nocturnal ground beetle prey on slugs, snails, cutworms, and other pests that live in the soil. Ladybird beetles eat aphids and mites that destroy plants. Tachinid fly larvae burrow into caterpillars, eating these garden pests rather disgustingly from the inside!
Many entomologists spend a great deal of research time studying what plants attract beneficial insects to a farm or garden, and other entomologists specialize in helping beekeepers increase their honey harvest.
Some insects spend a portion of their life cycle feeding on carrion, which is dead or decaying meat. Certain beetles and flies lay their eggs on decaying meat, and forensic entomologists spend their entire careers rifling through corpses to help solve murders and other criminal cases.
A host of insects are simply annoying, like roaches, ants, and silverfish. Entomologists who study those insects research which chemicals can eliminate them, aiding various pest control services.
Endless Entomology Careers
With the millions of insects that inhabit the world, an endless list of entomology careers is available for those interested in God’s insect creations! Just think—your homeschooler fascinated with God’s creeping, crawling, or flying critters might be the future entomologist who discovers a never-before-identified species!
Encourage and inspire a love of God’s insects! It’s a fascinating study!
Copyright 2021, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of The Old Schoolhouse®Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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