NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES with insects so strongly shape our students’ perceptions that even the best efforts of environmental educators during class time sometimes fail. Insects are their own worst spokespersons. The only bugs that tend to hang around us are those that bite us, suck our blood, defensively sting, or infest our food. The media, in movies and pesticide commercials for instance, present insects in the worst possible light. For every one positive experience with insects, people have hundreds of negative ones with bothersome bugs.
When questioned, many adults cannot even generate the simple “six legs and three-part body” definition of insects. They also tend to incorrectly include spiders and other small arthropods as examples of insects. To most people “bugs” seem to be any small dull-colored creature that crawls and a sizeable minority of people believe butterflies are not insects. Ticks, spiders, millipedes, and centipedes, are all “bugs” to most people. Our seemingly unimportant relationship with insects dramatically influences our pesticide use, understanding of biodiversity, home landscaping preferences, and participation in outdoor recreation.
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