Over UNL’s recent fall semester break, I accompanied my son Micah, a junior at the university, on a mission to collect certain insects for his entomology class on a friend’s natural area just north of Omaha. There was just one problem though, Micah forgot his insect collecting gear back at the Acacia House fraternity back in Lincoln where he resides, along with his officially-licensed Husker apparel that he wanted to wear on the insect hunt for this blog, BUMMER! So, never one to be defeated, Micah slapped on some old clothes at home, snatched up one of my finely-meshed fishing nets, grabbed one of Mom’s Tupperware containers and a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and off we went. No sooner could I get out of the vehicle when I noticed Micah was already hiking the wooded creek bottom. I hustled to catch up.
It was quite an adventure with Micah who was wearing his serious Nebraska Bugeater game face in the collection process. I was instructed to carry the Tupperware container and rubbing alcohol.
“Have you found any bugs, Micah?” I asked, as the hike progressed. “Dad, don’t call all insects bugs, it’s not correct, only some insects are true bugs, which is a particular order of insects.” he replied while examining the trunk of a dead cottonwood tree. “Got it, Micah,” I said sheepishly.
During the hunt, Micah told me that he had already gathered and ‘pinned’ some 35 different Nebraska insects on a display board, but that this particular mission was for a ‘prized’ caterpillar. Micah was so diligent in his search for a caterpillar that he left no stone unturned and no hollow log uninspected.
I must admit that the insect hike made me slow down and appreciate the small creatures in the wild we came across, especially when we walked above the creek bottom in the timber while making our way into upland habitat.
The insect pollinators like the monarch butterfly and the bee we came across … soooo cool!
Micah will be quick to tell you that insects perform a vast number of critical functions in our ecosystem that affect all living things. They aerate the soil, pollinate blossoms, and control insect and plant pests; they also decompose dead materials, thereby reintroducing nutrients into the soil. Insects, he says, can be found in every environment on our planet. They are among the most diverse groups of animals, he adds, including more than a million described species and representing more than half of all known living organisms! Thus, he emphasizes, it is important for us to study them, understand them and the interrelationships they have with other living things!
Oh, about the search for a caterpillar … In that upland habitat, Micah found one!, woo-hoo!
It was a woolly bear caterpillar, the larval form of the Isabella tiger moth.
Mission complete. Great day. A fun hunt with my son Micah for bugs, er, ah, I mean insects, insects! Smile, Micah, smile, you found a caterpillar!