Early fall is the perfect time for cricket thermometers. What exactly is a cricket thermometer, you ask? In summer and fall, temperature can be estimated by counting the number of cricket chirps in 14 seconds, then adding 40 to that number. For example, 45 chirps over a 14-second interval plus 40 equals a temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
I have been aware of the cricket thermometer theory for some time but have only recently tested it myself. Stepping out into the twilight with wristwatch in hand, I rapidly counted 37 cricket chirps as the seconds ticked by, giving me a cricket thermometer reading of 77 degrees. A comparison with a traditional thermometer showed my estimate was off by a mere two degrees. Amazing!
Introducing children to the world of insects, whether by cricket thermometers or other means, is vital. It’s vital because insects are vital. Insects join birds and small mammals in pollinating 75% of our flowering plants and nearly 75% of our crops. They form an important part of the food chain, aerate the earth, control plant pests, decompose dead material, and fertilize soil. Despite their benefits, the knee-jerk reaction of children (and, let’s face it, many adults) is overwhelmingly to squish rather than save our six-legged friends.
Teaching children not to fear insects can be informal and playful. Share a snack of peanut butter, raisin, and celery “ants on a log.” Invite butterflies into your backyard with plants like milkweed, yarrow, and phlox. Hide toy insects in the garden for a bug hunt, or embark on a real insect hunt with hand lenses. Catch lightning bugs and then let them go.
With over 1,000,000 named insects in the world (and a likely seven million more yet to be named), we out-populated humans need to make our peace with the insect population. Fossil records indicate that insects have existed for at least 100 million years, and many scientists believe that insects have actually been around for 400 million years. I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s a good thing.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator