Entomology 4 Kids

Entomology – big old Greek word this is. The scientific (again something scary) study of insects. A fun science. Insects count for more than two-thirds of all known organisms. Amazing. No wonder the old Egyptians were fascinated by them. 

But no worries – YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW ALL THIS – well just a bit.

Why, you ask? Simply because insects are a big part of the diet of freshwater fish. The fish we want to catch feed on insects. Fly-fishers catch fish with the help of insect imitations. Not only the very fly, but also by replicating the behaviour and life cycles and so on.

OK, you adult people can understand from books, but how do kids learn this stuff? They have a huge interest in it. I have so many kids drop by when fishing asking what the heck I am doing there? Really quickly I got it. Some kids want to understand and learn by pictures, symbols. One has to use all one has to illustrate what this is about. Body language works well, and hands.

I “developed” a sign language to illustrate the four main families of insects we are dealing with as a fly-fisher. It is real good fun.


I start with buzzers, midges and other two-winged insects. These insects make a buzzing noise, hence the name buzzer. Some of them suck blood, not all.

I ask them to cross the hands as shown in the picture and wiggle their fingers and make a buzzing noise… kids love this.

Next hand-sign is forming a roof. That is the caddis which is a good friend of the buzzers. They often appear together.

Next is the collapsed roof with the hand on top of each other – representing the stonefly.

And the last is the praying hands symbolising the mayfly. 

Kids seem to adopt this very quickly. By the water, they can be asked what do they see, or have seen? They can now explain what flies they have seen without having to remember all these scientific terms (“mayfly” is scientific for a 6-year-old).

Enjoy – and make sure to take the kids fishing… and bug hunting.