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Sleep Tight and Don’t let the Bed Bugs Bite

The news is filled with news that the United States is under assault from bed bugs. If that isn’t enough to peak kids’ interest and make their skin itch then they have not been watching the news. The good news is that it is yet another way to tap into current events and teach great science.

The science of entomology is one that not many kids will put in as a career choice. But, I would guess that more than 75% of your kids have marveled at a spider weaving its web or brought home a pill bug because of interest. It is fall and lots of bugs are active. The bed bugs, well that is a whole other story.
http://www.badbedbugs.com/

Bed bugs plague other countries and in the US we have always had pockets of infestations. We have always been able to keep them under control and the spread of these pests was limited. They seem to have, like many insects, adapted. Many are resistant to the chemicals we have used in the past to control them and they are flourishing.

Bed bugs are insects. They have the characteristics of insects, 3 body segments and 3 pairs of jointed legs. There are lots of sites that will give you the low down on how to classify insects.
http://www.insects.org/entophiles
http://www.earthlife.net/insects/six.html

Once you have the classification down it is time to move on to the extremes. There are large and very small insects. Bed bugs are about in the middle of the size range. A great activity would be to discuss classification and identifying characteristics so that students could correctly identify bed bugs should they make their way into your students’ homes.
It is important to make the argument that every insect is important to the larger ecosystem. I am not sure that ticks and fleas are good for the environment but biologists assure me that they are important. So, understanding food chains and what bed bugs contribute to the larger scheme of things would be an interesting discussion. There are insects that many classify as pests.
http://www.pestworldforkids.org/index.html

Insects that cause extensive crop or plant damage or inflict pain or transmit diseases to humans or animals are considered pests. The control of these pests is a huge industry and a great opportunity to look at the delicate dance between control and harm.

I would not center my unit on just pests but rather on the larger scope of insects. In my garden I have several large garden spiders weaving beautiful webs that trap morning dew and some insects we would like to have nature control, like mosquitoes.

The Franklin Institute maintains a list of insects that ranges from butterflies to scorpions. Many of your students will have experience with some insects that they feel are pests and some that they will easily see as helpful to the environment. It is important to stress that all insects do both harm and good.

So, it is a good time to get outside and do a little journaling and observation. The insects are especially active in the fall. You can tie this to classification or some great biology by tracking what part these insects play in their food web. At a minimum your students will have a better understanding of what is living, and crawling, under their feet. The bed bugs, well, that is just the creepy factor that many middle and high school lessons need for interest….and itch.

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