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Learning About Insects on the Playground

Insects are just about anywhere that you look: at home in your yard, in the grass at school, near the playground equipment, or in the dirt. There are so many insects that they make up 80 to 90 percent of all animals. That's a lot! There are also more than a million different types of insects. But what makes an insect an insect? Insects share certain things in common. They have three body parts: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. Insects also have antennae and three pairs of legs (that's six legs total!). Because there are so many insects, it can be fun to look a little closer at some of the common types.

Ladybugs are insects that are hard to miss or forget. They are a type of beetle that is called a ladybird beetle, and they can be found in gardens or in meadows. These cute little bugs are round and have a black head and a body that is red or orange with black dots. The bright colors are more than just pretty: They warn predators to stay away. Ladybugs are considered beneficial, or good, insects because they eat small insects that can hurt and destroy plants.

Ants can be really annoying insects. They can get on food during a picnic or during lunch time at school, or they can even get inside of the house. They can be seen in the dirt or crawling on playground equipment, and sometimes, it just seems like they get everywhere! But ants are really pretty cool, too. These little insects are stronger than they look. One ant can lift 20 times its own body weight. That means it could lift 20 ants like itself! There are thousands of different species around the world, more than 12,000 total. They live in what is called a colony. This is like a large group of ants. Inside that group, or colony, there are female ants that are the worker and soldier ants, male ants, and the queen. The male ants are called drones. The queen is the only female ant that can lay eggs or reproduce. The ants that you see are all female ants: That's because they are the workers.

When a bee is on the playground, it can be pretty scary. Everyone wants to run and not get stung. But bees really aren't so bad. In fact, they are pretty neat little insects, and they do a lot of good things for the environment. They are what are called social insects and pollinators. A pollinator is an animal that carries the pollen of one flower to another. This makes it possible for new plants to grow. Without bees, there would not be colorful flowers in the world and we wouldn't have a lot of the food that we eat today. Bees eat flower nectar and use it to create honey. It is while they are eating the nectar that pollen sticks to fine hairs on their legs, and then they carry it to the next plant. There are many different types of bees that can be found all over the world, except in Antarctica.

There are more beetles in the world than any other type of insect. They can be pests that destroy food crops and other things, or they can be helpful to the environment. Beetles can be found in most places around the world on land or in water, but not in the oceans or seas. Beetles also don't live in Antarctica. The type of beetle determines what it eats and how long it lives. Some beetles can live for a year, but other types of beetles may live as long as 12 years. Different types of beetles eat different things. Some beetles that live in water might eat small tadpoles or tiny fish. Other beetles may eat plants, other insects, pollen, wood, or even grain products.

Butterflies are beautiful to look at. They have two sets of wings that come in different colors and patterns. Before a butterfly becomes so beautiful, it has to go through a change that is called a metamorphosis. When it hatches from its egg, it is a caterpillar. After shedding its skin on several occasions, the caterpillar finds a protected spot and wraps itself in a chrysalis. The chrysalis is where it goes through its final transformation and turns into a butterfly. An adult butterfly can live as long as 40 days, but some die within a few days. This depends on the species of butterfly; there are around 17,000 different types.

The world is filled with many amazing insects, and there is so much to learn about them. There are the insects that are common all over North America, and there are also insects that are found only in some parts of the country. When you learn about insects, it is fun to learn about them all, even insects from other countries. To start exploring the world of insects, begin right in your own yard or go to the park or a playground.