Insects Are (Mostly) Our Friends


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2019 Spring Class

Insects Are (Mostly) Our Friends

Instructor: Judy Feinstein, Gaby Howard, Cathie Murray, Kit Pfeiffer, Karen Simpson

Tuesdays •  3/19-5/7 • 10:15 AM-12:15 PM

Location: Pending

Do you look for fireflies during summer evenings? Get excited when monarch caterpillars show up in your yard? Wonder what those almost invisible critters are dancing in a beam of sunlight? Enjoy phoebes “hawking” for moths in the air? Recent reports indicate a huge decline in insect populations all over the world. What will we be missing if this trend continues?

Come join us as we explore the beautiful, complex world of insects and their relationships with the rest of the natural world, including us. Let’s look at insects through the lens of birds who eat them, and plants that need them for pollination. We’ll learn about insects’ communication abilities. We will share ideas for pollinator-friendly flyways, “hotels” for native bees, and more. As usual we will have fun, there will be hands-on activities, and you will have opportunities to share your own adventures with these fascinating fellow residents of our planet.  Text: Golden Guide to Insects Classroom

These are some of the topics we plan to delve into each week (still evolving):

Intro to Insects and their Kin, and hands-on use of insect collection to identify insects to Order.

Singing Insects: A Musical Communication. We will explore the different ways that the”singing” insects (Orthoptera) produce sound and we’ll learn to recognize different species’ “songs.” We’ll also investigate how these insects “hear.” And we’ll look at specimens up close to see these fascinating structures. Finally, we’ll create an Orthoptera orchestra!

 Insects and their Kin: Fear, Love and Public Health

Synchronicity: Birds, Insects, and Plants 

Hands-on Intro to Online ID: Roger Rittmaster, Maine Master Naturalist and avid insect photographer will show us how to use the web to identify unknown species.  Web sites such as BugGuide (insects and other “bugs”), iNaturalist (everything with DNA), LepSnap (butterflies and moths) and GoBotany (plants) have made insect and plant identification much faster and easier.  Please bring your own laptop or notebook, if you have one.  If you don’t have your own insect photographs, Roger will provide ones for participants to use.

Chemical Ecology of Insects

Bumble Bees: Kalyn Bickerman-Martens, PhD candidate in etymology at UMO will share what she has learned about Bumble Bee Health; Impact of Pesticides; Maine Bumble Bee Atlas (citizen science).  This may be the week we make “bee hotels” for native bees.

Wild Seed Project and Pollinator-friendly Neighborhoods and Flyways

Class size 10-20 students
8 seats remaining


This team of Maine Master Naturalists, along with guest speakers, has offered numerous Senior College classes in the past, from survey courses to deep dives into trees and birds. Everyone on the team has completed the rigorous year-long Maine Master Naturalist program. We offer these courses to share our excitement about the natural world. And yes, we know some of you have clamored for a Birds II class, but bear with us. We realized many bird species in Maine rely on insects for their existence, either directly as food, or indirectly through plant seeds and fruits arising from insect pollination, or from relying on food animals that ate insects. We are excited to explore the amazing world of insects with you!

Photo: Caterpillar of Black Swallowtail butterfly by Judith Feinstein

“The Insect Apocalypse is Here

A New York Times report on the evidence and implications of the decline of insects all around us.

To learn even more about insects, 
attend Kennebec Land Trust’s 
3/14: Aquatic Insects
3/21: Terrestrial Insects
3/28: Interactions Among Plants & Insects
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