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  • Writer's pictureKate McDaniel

The Beauty of Insects

I once met an elementary teacher who swore up and down that insects were not animals. I am here to tell you that insects are in fact animals. Not only that, beetle species make up 25% of ALL animal species. Call me crazy but I think insects are as fascinating as they are beautiful (maybe it was the bug collection I had in college!).

The American Museum of Natural History opened the Susan and Peter J. Solomon Family Insectarium in February of last year (2023) and it is spectacular. It has taken me several failed attempts to see it but that day has finally come!

On a recent trip to the museum with my son we spent nearly an hour looking at all the beautifully preserved and displayed insects, neatly organized by scientific order. There is a gorgeous beehive installation complete with an interactive game about the different jobs bees have in the colony.

The highlight, of course, is the impressive leaf cutter ant exhibit. Leaf cutter ants are powerhouse insects. They can lift up to 50 times their body weight. That would be like the average American lifting more than 9,000 lbs! To put that in perspective, the average car only weighs about 4,000 lbs. Can you imagine walking around with two cars on your back? They also have extra large mandibles that they use to saw off pieces of the leaves to carry back to the colony. After hauling the leaves back to their colony they don’t even eat them! They use the leaves to farm fungi that they eat. 

Check out the video below to listen to a 4 year olds inquisitive excitement about leaf cutter ants!

There are so many great resources out there already to bring into your classroom. Check out some of these options below: 

Of course the museum has a whole page of resources that would be perfect for field trips!

AMNH Insectarium Education Resources

If your students are particularly interested in leaf cutter ants we really recommend these resources:

ASU Life of the LeafCutters

Leaf Cutter Ants - San Diego Zoo Kids

Leaf Cutter Ant Craft


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