GARDENING: Find your bug and check it outFloyd is a horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He can be reached at 498-4071 in Ector County or 686-4700 in Midland County or by email at

One of the best ways to learn about any living thing is to draw it.
A well-known 19th century biologist named Jean Luis Agassiz had his students sketch preserved specimen in the lab.
One such creature was a plain fish called a grunt.
Students would submit their grunt drawing only to hear Agassiz ask what they’d learned.
He never seemed content with their answer and always sent them back with instructions to find some obvious feature they’d overlooked.
After months of this his students were able to recall, literally in their sleep according to one, the unique structures that identified one grunt species from another.
What was Agassiz teaching? Observation!
This same process can be used to become more familiar with insects that call plants their home.
Imagine looking down on top of a dark green leaf and spying a small red beetle scooting along. It’s black spots look familiar. You extend your palm, the pest crawls onto you and bites down.
That was no ladybug. It was an invasive Asian lady beetle.
They’re aggressive behavior and lack of natural predators is reportedly displacing native ladybugs in some parts of the country.
A close inspection of the invasive look-alike reveals an unusual coloration just behind its head resembling the letter “m.”
Another, critter disguising itself as a ladybug is the Mexican bean beetle.
This one is a plant eater found on; you guessed it, bean plants.
They skeletonize leaves while eating the tender tissue between fibrous veins.
And then there’s the harlequin bug, the squash beetle and sometimes people even mistake the cucumber beetle as a ladybug.
The point is, drawing insects is a fun method for kids of all ages and abilities to spot (pun intended) the features that help distinguish good bugs from bad.