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Insect Reproduction

In farming it’s pretty important to understand you insect populations. I say this because there are many types on insects and each one has a specific set of rules and roles. There are also more beneficial insects than just lady bugs and butterflies. That isn’t saying that they aren’t beneficial, but it makes sense that there would be other insects that are both beneficial and general pests.

Photo credit to Larry Silsbee

Differences in reproduction

  1. Females are more selective when it comes to mating and often try to find the best suitor to lay their eggs with. They are often preoccupied with habitat selection and progeny development. These activities expend most of their energy after mating. Once they mate, females limit mating.
    1. Eggs fertilized as it leaves the ovarioles. (I know it’s too much information but it’s a scientific fact, so please understand that we’re discussing ovarioles for science.)
    2. By knowing a females mating patterns, after identifying our insect population, we have a better chance of preventing the spread of a pest or stopping further reproduction. There are many ways of doing this, but I’m not expert. Just make sure you’re reading the labels about application and the time between sprays. A lot of people don’t look at those and it could cause you to have ineffective treatment methods (I have been guilty of this myself).
  2. Males search out receptive females persistently and frequently. Locating mates and producing sperm expend more energy. After mating males frequently search for another mate.
    1. Sperm is stored in the spermatheca
    2. I know it’s gross but males are often doing mating dances and defending their territory in case any female comes along. They don’t seem to be as picky as the females.
  3. They find mates using:
    1. Vision
      1. Swarms
      2. Color
      3. Light
    2. Hearing
      1. Cicadas
      2. Grasshoppers
    3. Smell
    4. Touch
Lovely insect habitat right outside my own home

Many insects find each other through mating dances, light flashes or ‘sex-attractant’ pheromones which can be produced/performed by either males or females. Mating dances are specific to each type of insect and allow for their mate to find them or for them to find their mate. Dance patterns can be anything from flying in circles in an attempt to attract the females attention and she might possibly fly through his fancy dance to staying in a specific territory and zipping back and forth to assert dominance.

Pheromones -This is one of the way that pesticides are effective. It isn’t the pheromones that kill the insects but what is at the end of that tunnel. People put out bait that is coated in pheromones (which varies from insect to insect) and they either trap the insects inside a sticky trap or a net trap or they lure them to their deaths by poison or insectide.

I’m not advocating for any specific way but I am inserting that many people allow for a certain amount of pests inside their gardens, homesteads or whatever they are growing. They only spray when a population has grown out of control or once a season during a specific time before breeding is able to take place. Over spraying is a huge issue and can cause populations to grow out of control.

A nice green area with lots of spring growth (I really hope it doesn’t freeze again before April)

I’m just now learning about these things and I find that they are important to know and understand when I am attempting to start my own food forest. That being said there are a lot of homemade sprays that can kill or deter insect populations, just remember to know what insect you are spraying for. Guessing could kill many unnecessary insects in the process.

Without basic knowledge of insects in my area I might not notice when there is a problem or issue; also I might not notice when an invasive insect arrives. Also, having a diverse population of insects can help with the health of your plants.

More stuff to come… hopefully it’s interesting.

Photo credit to Larry Silsbee

Arthopods and Insects

First, since we know that insects are inside the athropod phylum. Also, when we think of insects we’re bunching a lot of different species into the anthropod phylum. So first let’s determine what an anthropod actually is…

  • They have jointed legs, and when he says that I feel like he means more than one joint but I don’t know if that bit has truth. They do however, have jointed legs in common. All anthropods.
  • They have segmented, and usually cylindrical bodies. It shorts all of their vital organs and makes sense.
  • They also have bilateral symmetry. That just means their body- if cut in half- could be divided into equal halves. I thought that was pretty cool.
  • They have an exoskeleton made with chitin- which is that sugar shield we talked about last time.
  • They have a ventral nerve cord and a dorsal brain. Now, I know what you’re thinking: dolphins. But no, it has nothing to do with dolphins. Ventral is situated on the lower part of the body and the dorsal is on the upper part of the body. I didn’t know and now I do. The nerve cord is downstairs and the brain is on the top.
This is pretty cool. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of bugs yet but I am working on that. So here are some pictures from my intro to horticulture class

When we talk about insects we think of a general word like bugs, which turns out is kind of specific as well. I should inform you that arthropods have five classes. If you look online it’ll say four but that is because they push centipedes and milipedes together.

Anyway they are…

  • Arachnida- these are spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks. (I bet you didn’t know that ticks were arachnids because I didn’t)
  • Crustacea- lobsters, pill bugs or sow bugs, decapods and crayfish (crawdads).
  • Chilopoda- centipedes
  • Diplopoda- millipedes
  • Hexapoda- insecta or insects
We have peas. You should know that we have prematurely started them and are about to repot them into individual containers. Pretty fun stuff.

So, to help myself refresh I have to remember:

  • Kingdom- all life is separated into six kingdoms: animals, plants, fungi, protists, archaea and bacteria
  • Phyla- anthropods which branches from the animal kingdom
  • Class- how the phylum is divided narrowing down specific types of that phyla. Each class can have as many different species as necessary. In the instance of anthropods we have our five classes: Crustacea, chilopoda, diplopoda, arachnid, and hexapoda.
  • Order- further narrowing it down but isn’t as mentioned
  • Family- narrowing it down even further and isn’t as mentioned
  • Genus- the first word in their scientific name.
  • Species- the specific thing. For example homo sapien. Homo is the genus and sapien is the species. Sapien is the most specific place and the narrowed search.

This is all called Taxonomy and is identifying living things and shoving them into proper categories with similar creatures- both living and extinct- and then given a scientific name. Often times common names are misleading and you think because something is called a California Pepper it is from California but it is actually from Peru. Knowing their scientific name really helps narrow down the search to get more information.

Well one half of this tray seems to be doing well. I wish they were doing better. More on these will be announced later

They’re calling it binomial nomenclature. That’s what they are calling the taxonomy system we use. Seems a bit unnecessarily long but I am sure they had their reasons. Also, not everyone can agree on the taxonomy, some things seem up for debate.

Until next time, thank you Dr. Drake for the information. Hopefully I’ll be able to retain it for the test next week.