An Alphabet Book for Esme and Eula. To teach
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An Alphabet Book for Esme and Eula. To teach them their letters and the beauty of na- ture. Published by Casita Press, Charlottesville, Va. April, 2008 A Ants are are a diverse group of more than 12,000 spe- cies. They are known for their highly organized colo- nies and nests, which sometimes consist of millions of individuals. Ant colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because the colony appears to operate as a uniﬁed entity. Ants have colonized almost every land- mass on Earth. When all their individual contributions are added up, they may constitute up to 15 to 25% of the total terrestrial animal biomass. B Beetles—There are more than 800,000 species of insects on earth, more than all the other plants and animals com- bined. Nearly half are beetles. Beetles range in size from less than a millimeter to tropical giants over six inches long. They often feed on plants and fungi, break down animal and plant debris, and eat other insects. Certain spe- cies are agricultural pests, such as the Mexican Bean Beetle shown here, many others help control agricultural pests. C Caterpillars are the larval form of butterﬂies and moths. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered pests in agriculture. Caterpillars have good vision. They have a series of six tiny eyelets on each side of their head. They move their heads from side to side probably as a means of judging distance of objects, particularly plants. They rely on their short antennae to help them locate food. D Dragonﬂies are insects characterized by large multifac- eted eyes, two pairs of strong, transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonﬂies eat mosquitoes, midges, and other small insects. They are therefore valued as predators, since they help control populations of harm- ful insects. Dragonﬂies are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as “nymphs”, are aquatic. Dragonﬂies do not normally bite or sting humans. E Earthworms are decomposers feeding on undecayed leaf and other plant matter.There are over 2,700 different kinds of earthworms. Earthworms have ﬁve hearts. They are important animals that aerate and enrich the soil with their waste prod- ucts and burrowing action. Good soil can have as many as as 1,000,000 (a million) worms per acre. Earthworms range in size from a few inches long to over 22 feet long. F Fire ﬂy—There are about 2,000 ﬁreﬂy species. These insects are a familiar sight on summer evenings. Fireﬂies have dedicated light organs that are lo- cated under their abdomens. The insect’s special cells, combine oxygen with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. Fireﬂy light is usually intermittent, and ﬂashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps ﬁreﬂies ﬁnd potential mates. G Grasshopper—There are 18,000 kinds of grasshop- pers in the world. Some grasshoppers rub their wings together to create music. A Grasshopper can leap 20 times the length of its own body. Grasshop- pers can be found almost everywhere in the world. Grasshoppers can mass in huge numbers (locust). A swarm can destroy entire ﬁelds of crops. H Honey bee—One of the most familiar insects in the world. This beneﬁcial insect plays a key role in the human and natural world. Bees polinate al- most all of the fruit and nut trees. While many species of insects consume nectar, honeybees reﬁne and concentrate nectar to make honey. Honeybees are social insects. In the wild, they create elaborate nests called hives con- taining up to 20,000 individuals. There is only one queen in a hive and her main purpose in life is to make more bees. I Io moth— The Io moth has black eyespots on its wings. The eyespots are thought to protect the moth by frightening pred- ators. Adult moths are strictly nocturnal, ﬂying generally only during the ﬁrst few hours of the night. J Japanese Beetle—This imported pest was ﬁrst detected in New Jer- sey in 1916, having been introduced from Japan.The adults are skel- etonizers, that is, they eat the leaf tissue between the leaf veins but leave the veins behind. Attacked leaves look like lace and soon wither and die. K Katydids get their name from the way their songs sound. Some katydids have been called long-horned grasshoppers, however, katydids are relat- ed to crickets not grasshoppers. One thing that makes them different is their antennae which may be two or three times the length of their body. These antennae are covered with sensory receptors that allow katydids to ﬁnd their way around in the dark. L Ladybird Beetle or Ladybug, is the common name for any of about 6,000 species of brightly colored beetles found throughout the world. The ladybird beetle is less than a half inch in length. It has a round body, a small head, and short legs. All the ladybird beetles feed on in- sects harmful to plants, such as aphids and scale insects. Adults of the two-spotted ladybug beetle often hibernate in houses during winter. M Mosquitoes are insects that have been around for more than 30 million years. “Mosquito” is a Spanish word meaning “little ﬂy”. There are over 2500 different spe- cies of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can be a serious prob- lem, they interfere with work and spoil hours of leisure time. Some mosquitoes are capable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, ﬁlaria- sis and encephalitis. N Nematodes are the most numerous multicellular animals on earth. A handful of soil will contain thousands of the microscopic worms, many of them parasites of insects, plants or animals. Free-living species are abundant, including nematodes that feed on bacteria, fungi, and other nematodes, yet the vast majority of species encountered are poorly understood biologically. There are nearly 20,000 described species classiﬁed in the phylum Nemata . O The Oriental cockroach is also known as the “water bug”. These insects feed on garbage and decaying organic matter . They are found in damp basements, cellars, crawl spaces, near drains, leaky water pipes and beneath refrigerators, sinks and washing machines. They forage mostly on ﬁrst ﬂoors of buildings. Out- doors, they are found beneath decomposing leaves or stones in mulching materials. P Praying mantis—The name “mantis” comes from the Greek word for ‘prophet’ or ‘soothsayer.’ These beneﬁcial insects devour many insect pests and are considered a gardener’s friend. Their colors vary, ranging from light greens to pinks and their size varies from one to eight inches. Q Queen butterﬂy—The Queen is a large chocolate brown but- terﬂy. The wings are edged with black with a few white spots. It is a close relative of the Monarch Butterﬂy which it closely re- sembles, The adult butterﬂy visits a wide variety of ﬂowers to sip nectar. Queens frequent Milkweed family ﬂowers and the abun- dant ﬂowers on shrubby members of the sunﬂower family, R Recluse spider— These spiders are also commonly referred to as “ﬁddle- back” spiders or “violin” spiders because of the violin-shaped marking on the top surface of its body. Adult brown recluse spiders have a leg span about the size of a quarter. This is a shy animal which is how it earned its name. Both sexes are venomous.The brown recluse spider is not aggres- sive, and it normally bites only when crushed, handled or disturbed. S Stink bugs have glands between the ﬁrst and second pair of legs which produce a foul smelling liquid. They typically have a shield shape and are almost as wide as they are long. Stink bugs feeds on a wide variety of host plants including apples, peaches, ﬁgs, and mulberries. These insects do not harm humans and do not reproduce inside houses. T Tarantula is the common name for a group of “hairy” and often very large spiders of which approximately 900 spe- cies have been identiﬁed. Tarantulas hunt prey in both trees and on the ground. The biggest tarantulas can kill animals as large as lizards, mice, or birds. Most tarantulas are harmless to humans, and some species are popular in the exotic pet trade while others are eaten as food. These spiders are found in tropical and desert regions around the world. U The Umber Skipper inhabits shady washes and moist canyons in California. Most skippers are small to medi- um, usually orange, brown, black, white, or gray. A few have iridescent colors. Skippers have large eyes, short antennae, stout bodies, and three pairs of walking legs. Adult skippers feed on ﬂoral nectar. V Velvet ants are actually wasps. They get their name from the hairs that cover their body. Velvet ants look like min- iature walking cotton balls.They are active during the day but burrow under debris when it gets too hot. Nectar is their preferred food. If you see a walking velvet ant, you can be assured that it is a female. W The wooly bear caterpillar, which turns into the tiger moth, is the source of a common superstition. Some people believe that the coat of a wooly bear caterpillar can be used to predict how bad the com- ing winter will be. They believe that if a wooly bear caterpillar’s brown stripe is thick, the winter weather will be mild and if the brown stripes are narrow, the winter will be severe. X The Xerces Blue butterﬂy is extinct, it was last seen in 1941. The little blue butterﬂy lived in coastal sand dunes of around San Francisco. The Xerces butterﬂy is believed to be the ﬁrst American butterﬂy species to become extinct as a result of urban development. Its name is derived from a ﬁfth century B.C. Persian king. Y Yellow jacket is the common name for a number of predatory wasps. Most of these are black-and-yellow; they can be identi- ﬁed by their distinctive markings and small size. They live in col- onies and prey mainly on other insects. All yellow jacket wasps are capable of stinging. Z The Zebra Butterﬂy is mostly black with yellow stripes and spots. Adults sip nectar and pollen from lantana and shepherd’s needle ﬂowers. The Zebra butterﬂy makes a creaking sound when it is alarmed. It can be found in the southern United States from Texas to Florida.