Written by Chris Garza

No, this will not be a post about the origin of words. Let us clarify the etymology of entomology. Entomology comes from the Greek entomon meaning ‘insect’ and logy is used to describe the ‘study of’ something. Maybe some of you are thinking “why should I care about insects?” or “why would anyone want to study insects?”.

Insects are incredibly diverse – one of the most diverse and numerous animals with over 900,000 species worldwide, and they play roles in major aspects of human lives. For example, there are hundreds of insect pests of major food crops. On the other hand, pollination by insects is required for approximately 30% of food crops and 90% of wild plants. Insects influence landscapes, ecosystems, our gardens, and our homes. Whether you like them or not, there is no denying that they impact our lives and that they are here to stay.

Entomology, as a field of science, was originally important for managing pests, but nowadays scientists also study beneficial insects and insect evolution and behavior. For my Master’s thesis in forestry I studied bark beetles in the southwestern US. These beetles kill trees by cutting off the flow of nutrients from the leaves or needles to the roots. Because these beetles kill trees, they are often viewed as pests, but they are actually native and part of a natural system. These beetles tend to kill stands of old, over-mature trees and allow the forest to regenerate. Without disturbances like beetles or wildfires, all forests within a region would eventually be more or less the same. These disturbances help create some diversity in the types of ecosystems present and the age of stands of trees.

On July 23rd, 2016 from 9-11 am, join me for an Intro to Entomology class. This class will focus on basic insect anatomy and the major types of insects. You will also learn about helpful tools to ID insects at the Arboretum and at your own home, and then we’ll take a walk to test out your new skills. This fun class will help you recognize some of the diversity of insect species around you and help you gain an appreciation for these fascinating creatures.

A Bumelia Borer, one of the Arboretum's many native insects.