Centipedes, roly polies and mantids, oh my!

Feb 19, 2023

Eight-year-old Jaxon Pemberton left no log unturned during the Wareham Land Trust’s Winter Insect Hike through the Douglas S. Westgate Conservation Area on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The event was made possible with a grant from the Wareham Cultural Council.

“What about this one?” Jaxon asked, pointing to a stubby log covered in moss. 

“Let’s check it out,” replied entomologist Blake Dinius, who led Saturday’s search for signs of insect life during a time of year when bugs are much less visible. 

Dinius flipped over the log to reveal a small world of roly polies and spiders.

Tiny hands did not flinch at the touch of the creepy critters.

“That’s a tiger slug,” said Ben Norris, 11.

Excited “oohs” and “ahhs” erupted at the discovery.

Dinius said that searching for insects is a fun and accessible hobby — as long as you’re not afraid of them.

“A lot of people start with this initial fear that insects are going to bite or hurt them,” he said. “But there are not very many that will do that.”

He suggested that novice researchers find a specific group of insects (butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, etc.) so they aren’t overwhelmed.

“It doesn’t require fancy equipment,” he said.“Just an interest.”

Growing up, Dinius liked “things that are creepy and scary,” like monsters and dinosaurs. He quickly discovered that there are more bugs in the world than monsters. 

“You can’t go into your backyard and find a shark or a dinosaur,” he said, “but you can find cool insects.”

Among the creepy critters seen on the hike were ground beetles, grasshoppers, water boatmen and freshwater crayfish.

Ben and his sister Zoey, 9, found praying mantis egg sacs attached to plants.

Dinius explained that mantis eggs are a common sight to see in winter. In the spring, they will hatch, releasing hundreds of babies.

The siblings decided to take the egg sacs home and keep them as pets, much to their mother’s dismay.

Zoey said that she and her brother plan to take photos and videos of eggs hatching and the baby mantises growing. 

Both agreed that they will release all of the mantises except for the biggest one, which they will keep as a pet.