Tag: Insects by Martha E. H. Rustad

Insect Senses Activity Answers

Did you find the parts associated with insect senses from the previous post? Here are the labelled photographs to check.


The following are public domain photographs taken by the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.  Name links will take you to the image in Flickr. Note:  For the squeamish, there are a few photographs of dead birds in their photostream (preserved specimens).


(Syrphid or flower fly, face view)

Flies have very interesting antennae. They are shorter and smaller than the antennae of many adult insects. Fly antenna also have a hair-like structure sticking out called the arista. A few kinds of flies, like mosquitoes, can “hear” when sound vibrations cause the arista to move.

The large eyes are made up of facets or ommatidia. Can you see the patterns they make in the eye?

They aren’t labelled, but did you spot the sensory hairs around the ocelli and those just above the antennae? They are longer and thicker than hairs in nearby regions. They might help the fly figure out how fast it is going.


The antenna of this bee looks very different from that of the fly.


The  Eucera dubitata bee has smaller compound eyes than the flower fly.

The mouthparts are complicated, consisting of tube-like tongue to suck nectar but also biting jaws to dig nests in the soil. The long, whitish hairs at the top of the mouthparts are sensory hairs. They might help position the tongue in flowers.

The other hairs on the bee’s body may not be not primarily sensory. They may help keep the bee warm and also to trap pollen. The bee scrapes the pollen off its hairs and bundles it into bee bread for the larvae to eat.

moth-labelled-headThe velvetbean moth has a thinner, more flexible moth for sucking nectar.

The antennae of male moths are often bushy and thicker than those of female moths.

Moths, which are active largely at night when it is cooler, have hairs on their body to help insulate them and keep them warmer.

Some moths also have tympana on the sides of their abdomen, which allows them to hear the echolocation signals of bats and avoid them.

Because there are so many different insects, there are of course many different insect senses. Please feel free to leave a question if you a curious about an insect we didn’t mention.



Insects Book and Insect Senses Activity for Kids

For STEM Friday we are sharing a Smithsonian Little Explorer nonfiction title:  Insects (Little Scientist) by Martha E. H. Rustad.

Young children are often fascinated by insects and this book will give them a good foundation in the basics of insect science. In addition to explaining metamorphosis and insect senses, it covers eight main insect groups from ants to grasshoppers. Each section is a two-page spread with bright color photographs throughout. Some of the photographs are edge to edge, giving a feeling that you are actually seeing the scene first hand.

In the back are suggestions for thinking more deeply about insects, as well as a glossary, book recommendations for further reading, and a portal to Internet Sites through FactHound.

Insects will thrill budding entomologists. It is also a useful resource for libraries and classrooms.

Let’s celebrate the book with an activity.


Related Activity:  Exploring Insect Senses

The following are public domain photographs taken by the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab.  Name links will take you to the image in Flickr. Note:  For the squeamish, there are a few photographs of dead birds in their photostream (preserved specimens).

Animals need to be able to detect or sense information about their environments in order to survive.

1. Brainstorm about human senses.

Read a book about human senses, such as My Five Senses by Aliki (as seen read in this video).

Ask the children about what senses humans have and why they are important (like avoiding danger or finding safe food to eat).

(Extension:  You are likely to have been taught in school, as in the book, that humans have five senses. This is a simplification. Think about other senses we have, such as the ability to sense pain or the ability to tell which way is up in relation to gravity. We can also tell when our stomach is full via stretch receptors. Some scientists think we may have up to 20 senses!  How Stuff Works has more about this.)

2. Find out about insect senses.

Insects have senses as well, but theirs don’t look the same and work in different ways than ours do.


Can you believe that mosquitoes hear with their antennae and that crickets hear with tympana (strips of membrane stretched tight) found on their legs?

Many insects can detect chemical odors via their antennae, which work in a similar way to how our noses detect smells.

Look at the photographs below and try to find the parts the insects are using to see, hear, smell, taste and touch things around them.

Parts to look for:

  • Antennae
  • Compound Eyes
  • Ocelli (simple eyes)
  • Mouthparts

Bonus:  see if you can spot any special sensory hairs.


syrphid-fly-huge-eyesSyrphid or flower fly, face view

close-up-bee-antennaCan you tell what part of the bee this is?


 Eucera dubitata bee

velvetbean-mothVelvetbean moth

Once you have examined these insect photographs closely, go to the answer post for labelled photographs and more information.

Isn’t it amazing that even though they look and work in different ways, insects have senses just like we do?


Be sure to look for Insects (Little Scientist) by Martha E. H. Rustad.

Age Range: 4 – 7 years
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1491407948
ISBN-13: 978-1491407943

Disclosures: The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.