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Facts and Fun About Insects with Magic School Bus's Ms. Frizzle

Learn about those creepy crawlers from Ms. Frizzle, who answers student questions about bugs and insects.

  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Ms. Frizzle answered your questions about bugs in March 2001. Read a transcript of that interview below.

Question: What is your favorite kind of insect?
Ms. Frizzle: Bees are my favorite, even though there are 20,000 different species of bees. They are very productive, they produce delicious honey for humans. We also wouldn't have vegetables or flowers without bees pollinating.

Question: What's the difference between bugs and insects?
Ms. Frizzle: Insects always have three body parts and six legs. They usually have four wings and two antennae. Now most people call spiders, bugs. But they are not insects, because they only have two body parts and eight legs with no wings or antennae. They are really arachnids. So bugs usually refer to anything that is creepy crawly. And "insects" is a more technical term.

Question: How do insects mate?
Ms. Frizzle: Each species of insects reproduces in different ways, but most species involve a male fertilizing a female. And most insects lay eggs or larvae that metamorphosize (change) into adult insects.

Question: How long do bugs, spiders, and insects live?
Ms. Frizzle: With so many varieties of species that is a very difficult Question to answer. Some insects such as the mayfly only live one day. On the other hand, there is a queen termite that lives in the tropics, and some scientists think this queen termite can live for as long as 50 years!

Question: How long does it take for a cocoon to turn into a butterfly?
Ms. Frizzle: With so many varieties, it really depends on the specific type of butterfly. The monarch butterfly takes three to six days.

Question: How many kinds of bugs are there?
Ms. Frizzle: There are more insect species on earth than all other animals put together.

Question: What kind of bugs are edible?
Ms. Frizzle: In some cultures they consider chocolate-covered bees and ants a delicacy. Unless poisonous, insects are edible — if not appetizing. Some cultures consider many varieties of beetles a very special treat. If you want to learn more about eating bugs, click here.

Question: Do insects have teeth?
Ms. Frizzle: Insects do have teeth, however they are referred to as fangs or mandibles.

Question: Why do bees have stingers?
Ms. Frizzle: Stinging is the way bees protect their hive; bees usually sting only if they have to. That's because most bees die soon after they sting. Honeybees have little hooks on the end of their stingers. So when a honey bee stings, the stinger gets stuck in the victim's skin, and that pulls the stinger out of the bee, and the bee dies.

Question: Do bugs have a specific color to tell their predators if they are poisonous or not?
Ms. Frizzle: Insects rely on both bright colors and patterns to warn predators that they are poisonous. Some insects even pretend to be poisonous to fake out their enemies.

Question: Why do fireflies light up their abdomen?
Ms. Frizzle: It's their way of attracting a mate. Each male has a different code; it's almost like a song — in light — that he uses to attract a female.

Question: What do bugs eat?
Ms. Frizzle: Most bugs eat things like pollen or nectar from flowers. Social bugs like ants eat a variety of things such as leaves or anything they can find at your family picnic. Some bugs eat other bugs, like a preying mantis and a ladybug.

Question: How small can ants be?
Ms. Frizzle: Carpenter ants are a quarter-inch to a one-half inch long. They can be as big as a quarter-inch long, and as small as a speck of dust (.8 mm long).

Question: What do mealworms turn into?
Ms. Frizzle: Mealworms are not worms at all. But they are the larval form of the darkling beetle.

Question: Do insects fight?
Ms. Frizzle: Absolutely, when a queen bee is getting ready to start a new hive, she will lay several queen bee larvae. When they hatch there is a great battle, and the strongest queen bee wins and will pass her strength on to the next generations. A bug's entire life is a battle, that's why they wear "armor."

Question: Why do bugs have the skeleton on the outside?
Ms. Frizzle: It's to protect them from predators and elements such as rain and sun.

Question: How come we call ladybugs "ladybugs"?
Ms. Frizzle: In the olden days, British farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help with their crops. Then ladybugs arrived and helped the farmers by eating crop-eating bugs and saved farmers' crops. In honor of these bugs, the farmers called the beetles "Our Lady's beetle," which turned into ladybug.

Question: How do caterpillars turn into a cocoon?
Ms. Frizzle: Butterfly caterpillars can spin thread from their mouths that they use to bind leaves together for a shelter, which is the cocoon. During the time they are in the cocoon, the caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

Question: Is it true that how many spots a ladybug has determines its age?
Ms. Frizzle: No, it's not true. The number of spots identifies the type of ladybug.

Question: Do you know if a ladybug can be a male?
Ms. Frizzle: Most species of insects need a male and female to create more insects.

Question: Why do bugs not come out in winter?
Ms. Frizzle: Most bugs survive on plants, and they need food so they don't come out. Most trees don't have leaves during the winter, and the flowers aren't blooming.

Question: What is the most poisonous insect?
Ms. Frizzle: The mutillid wasp, which is the South African velvet ant.

Question: Which are the slowest and fastest bugs?
Ms. Frizzle: The giant hunting wasp can fly up to 48 miles an hour. The slowest bug is a kid trying to get ready for school. : -)

Question: How long have bugs been around?
Ms. Frizzle: Insects were one of the first species to occupy the earth over a 100 million years.

Question: Where do butterflies live in winter?
Ms. Frizzle: They migrate to warmer climates like Australia, South America, and Africa. Anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere; they are seeking warmth.

Question: Where do katydids live?
Ms. Frizzle: Forests, woodlands, shade trees, and deserts.

Question: How can you tell if a bug is a female or male?
Ms. Frizzle: Another bug can tell by pheromones. You can tell usually by different shape, size, markings.

Question: Do you have an insect for a pet?
Ms. Frizzle: I don't have an insect, but I do have a pet tarantula: "Tequila." Fortunately, since Liz is an iguana — and iguanas are vegetarian — Liz doesn't eat bugs.

Question: What was your favorite bug field trip?
Ms. Frizzle: My favorite bug field trip was when I took the class inside a beehive. And you can read about it in The Magic School Bus: Inside a Beehive. In the book, there is lots of information about bees and insects. Bugs and insects are a fascinating part of our world. I encourage every young scientist to take an interest. Don't forget to look at the small things!

  • Subjects:
    Biology and Life Science, Insects
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