GAINESVILLE, Fla. — From the soil dwellers, to the winged flyers, to the leaf nibblers between, the bug visitors to our yards are often an exciting observation for children.
“It’s a little safari in your backyard,” said Jaret Daniels, a University of Florida entomologist who just released a pair of books to foster kids’ fascination with the tiny critters. “You don’t need to go to Yellowstone to find insects. You can go right outside your back door.”
The books, “Insects & Bugs for Kids” and “Insects & Bugs Backyard Workbook,” are a companion set. Daniels likens the first to a children’s introductory entomology guide – detailing insect orders, body parts and development stages, to name a few components – and the latter supports the guide with activities for young explorers and their families. The featured insects are broadly common across the United States and Southern Canada, he added.
Daniels, a UF/IFAS professor of entomology and curator for lepidoptera at the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF, noted the books come after a year of pandemic trends drawing more people outdoors.
“We’ve had this last year of being sequestered in our homes, and a lot of people have reconnected to that natural world,” he said, before suggesting: “It’s a great opportunity to plant a landscape to attract wildlife to go out and explore with your kids.”
Daniels said it’s important to engage people of all ages to recognize the critical role insects play in the larger ecosystem, which is among the broader outreach goals of his lab.
“We’re losing biodiversity at a rapid rate,” he explained. “We all can make a difference in making sure our landscapes are helping to conserve or provide resources for these amazing organisms.”
For Daniels, this interest started at a young age and continued to grow. He recalled being 6 years old, observing the creatures in his family’s Wisconsin backyard.
“I got interested in entomology at a very critical age,” Daniels said. “If you ask entomologists, biologists, people who work in the museum – they all can recall a story around that same age when they had a critical person in their life or a critical experience that got them interested in the subject they now study.”
His new books, he hopes, could open such a door for young readers.
“If this can inspire kids to explore the natural world and maybe later find a career in biology or entomology, that’s great,” Daniels said. “But even just gaining a broader appreciation for the natural world – that’s the goal.”
The books can be purchased from a number of retailers, including the UF/IFAS Extension Bookstore on the Gainesville campus, 1374 Sabal Palm Drive.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
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