by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation (and bug fan)
In part I of this post, I wrote about a field trip to the Poudre River to collect aquatic insects. Along with being fun to catch and fascinating to look at, aquatic insects are also very important to the ecosystems they live in. These insects are a major food source for waterfowl and fish (most “flies” for fly-fishing are modeled after aquatic insects), and can also be biological indicators of ecosystem health. According to Dr. Kondratieff at Colorado State University, the Poudre River isn’t as healthy as it could be and even though we found a lot of insects, we didn’t find a lot of different species. Usually, the healthier a river, the more species you’ll find.
As it continues to get warmer, more and more insects will be visible around Fort Collins. If you haven’t tried it already, go insect hunting! It doesn’t need to be a complicated production involving waders (although, if you get the chance…), it can be as simple as sitting down on the grass and taking a close look around you – you’ll be surprised at what you see. Just remember these tips:
- If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. Many insects bite, sting, pinch and cause allergic reactions, so it’s always better to assume an insect will bring the pain until you know better.
- The best way to learn what insects you’re finding is to have an identification book with you. “Guide to Colorado Insects” by Whitney Cranshaw and Boris Kondratieff is a great tool, full of photos and easy to understand descriptions (and available in the museum’s gift shop).
- Leave insects where you find them. While it’s tempting to create your own insect collection, some endangered insects are protected by laws that make it illegal to collect them. Even if an insect isn’t endangered, it has an important role to play in the ecosystem it belongs to so it should be left where it is.
- Try keeping an insect log. How many kinds of insects can you find in a day? In a month? Can you find examples from all the orders (there are anywhere from 24-27 orders, depending on which scientist you talk to)? How many different kinds of beetles can you find (they make up approximately 22% of the world’s described, living species, so get counting!)?
- Visit the Discovery Science Center’s “Bugville” exhibit while you still can (it’s open through May 30th) to learn a whole lot more about insects than I can cover here.
We’re still figuring out how insects will be incorporated into our new museum, so when you come to visit us, you’ll have to leave the insects at home (at least for the time being).