For Earth Day 2023 Emma Rich, Bob Winters, and I were lucky enough to spend the afternoon at the Ford's Colony Earth Day celebration. It was a really wonderful day and we had the opportunity to speak with many people about the importance of preserving water quality, insect conservation, and unexpected pollinators.
We brought lots of items for people to observe and take home with them. We had stickers, packets of our Native Pollinator Wildflower seed mixes, and coloring pages to give away.
I also brought my insect collection, so that I could give people the opportunity to see some of the native pollinators we have in our area up close. We looked at some of the less known pollinator groups - the wasps, flies, and beetles, and discussed how important it is that we consider them when taking care of our pollinators. The insect collection also contained some of the non-pollinating beneficial species we have here in the state and some insects that look an awful lot like bees, but that are actually just other insects that wear 'bee costumes' in order to keep would-be predators at bay.
We also had our digital microscope that we used to show folks what baby dragonflies look like - did you know they live under water? The day before the event I spent a few hours in one of the many ponds at Ford's Colony collecting some aquatic insects so we could introduce folks to the some of their leggier neighbors.
This is a photo of Emma (m), Bob (r), and I (l) at the Ford's Colony Earth Day Celebration.
Some of these photos display the preserved insects that we brought to show the public as well as some shots of us using our digital microscope to show people a good view of the living dragonfly nymph on the iPad screen.
One of the critters that I found when collecting insects was this Giant Water Bug, which are true bugs from the Belostomatidae family. These insects are fantastic predators and I had to be careful to keep him separate from the other insects I collected for this reason.
You might notice that the back of this bug is covered in this tall tube-shaped structures - those are eggs - they are carried like this for up to two weeks so that the young are protected from predators and kept adequately oxygenated. But that's not the coolest thing about their reproductive process, the coolest thing is that the individual in the photo--the one carrying the eggs--is the male! That's right, the males show parental care by protecting their offspring once the female has laid her eggs on his back.
These insects--and all of the other aquatic insects living in ponds all over the world--are an important part of our ecosystem and it is up to us to make sure we are protecting them and our environment.