Insects – 4/30


There are over one million types of bugs and insects in the world!  Usually our first thought is “Ew! Yuck!” when we hear the word “bug”.  But believe it or not, only about 5% of the bugs on our planet are bad!  These bad bugs are usually called “pests” because they can cause damage to property or plants or even harm animals! All the other bugs are actually beneficial (helpful) or neutral (are not necessarily beneficial, but also don’t cause any harm). Let’s take a closer look at bugs that are good and bad and above ground and in the soil!

Soil doesn’t only have nutrients that are important for plant growth.  Soil also has living things that keep it healthy!  Check out this video that shows some of the living organisms in soil and why they are important!

This U of I study discusses how cover crops are beneficial for the microbiome of soil!  Healthy soil leads to healthy food, after all!


First, let’s enjoy the book “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” By Bob Barner.

Some bugs are good (beneficial) and some bugs are bad (pests).  Can you think of how a bug could be beneficial?  How could a bug be a pest?

Bugs are all around us, in almost every nook and cranny of our planet.  They are even in your back yard!  Go enjoy the outdoors and use our scavenger hunt to see how many native Illinois bugs, both beneficial and pests, you can find!  Make sure to wear your face masks!


How bad can a bad bug be?  Well, they can be very bad, actually.  There are many bugs, plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi that can cause a lot of damage to the environment.  Normally, there is a balance in nature that keeps these populations under control (A.K.A. the food chain/food web), but sometimes an organism can become “invasive.”  Watch this video to learn about invasive species.

So what does that mean for Illinois agriculture?  Even here in Illinois we have several invasive species.  Check out this list of Illinois’ most wanted pests. Don’t forget to read about them on the second page!

Your activity is to choose one of those most wanted pests and make a “Most Wanted” poster about it. 

Information to include:

  • A picture of your pest
  • Description of its habitat
  • Description of WHY it is considered a pest
  • Description of WHY this pest is invasive to its habitat
  • Connection to how this invasive species could be harmful to agriculture


Litter Bug!  With Earth day having just passed us, what better way to help reduce waste than to design and build a bug with recyclable materials!  Try designing a beneficial bug and a pest!  How many bugs can you build?

Once your bug(s) is built, describe it to a family member!  How is that bug beneficial to its environment and to agriculture?  What does it eat?  What does its habitat look like?  What predators does it have?

Something for Everyone

Our friendly feline companions are known for chasing the laser dot, but what about this little guy (or girl)?

Gordon may not be an insect, but arachnids are a part of our environments and are incredibly beneficial!!

Assessment and Extended Response


  1. What are ways bugs are beneficial? (Bugs can be helpful by eating other bugs and plants that are pests, some are decomposers in the ground and help add nutrients back to the soil, some help pollinate many of our native plants)
  2. What are ways that bugs can be pests? (They can damage homes and buildings, they can overeat plants and damage farmers’ crops, they can bite other animals and even make us sick)

*Explain why farmers would be concerned with good and bad bugs on their farm.


  1. What is an invasive species? (A species introduced to a new ecosystem that has no natural predators, causing the population to increase and over-use the other resources in that ecosystem that other organisms rely on)
  2. What are some reasons species can become invasive? (humans using one species to control/eliminate another species, climate changes, changes in the ecosystem like a break in the food chain, etc.)

*Think about Illinois ecosystems.  We have wetlands, prairies, farmland, livestock, urban and rural communities, forests, etc.  Describe how an invasive species can affect all the different types of ecosystems in Illinois.

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