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Become an X Kid 

Teaching kids the benefits of insects in the natural world

Many years ago, like back before WWII, there was a butterfly called the Xerces blue, scientific name, Glaucopsyche xerces. It lived in sand dunes on the edge of San Francisco in California and — like the Monarch butterfly that must have milkweed for its babies to feed on — the Xerces blue caterpillars depended on specific plants growing there to eat.

Unfortunately, over the years, their habitat got smaller as the city got bigger and eventually the butterflies no longer had the food and shelter they needed to survive. The Xerces blue butterfly was last seen alive in the early 1940s.

Young Janelle Orsillo makes friends with a Lorguin's Admiral, as shown below. - SUE ANDERSON
  • Sue Anderson
  • Young Janelle Orsillo makes friends with a Lorguin's Admiral, as shown below.

Knowing that sad story and witnessing the extinction of Great Britain's Large Blue butterfly while studying there, Robert Michael Pyle hatched the idea of forming an organization that would introduce people to saving the lives of butterflies and other arthropods. And thus, the Xerces Society came into being.

And what better than to name it after the ancient Greek word that means "Ruler over Heroes" as well as an American butterfly that also went extinct.

Rachel Carson, one of my most treasured heroes of documenting the threats to our natural world and author of "Silent Spring," said this about our arthropod companions: "These insects, so essential to our agriculture and indeed to our landscape as we know it, deserve something better from us than the senseless destruction of their habitat."

Currently, science writer and British journalist Oliver Milman chronicles the striking decline in insect populations around the world in his new book, "The Insect Crisis: The Fall Of The Tiny Empires That Run The World." where he describes evidence of insectageddon, as some call it, and what trouble this could spell for us humans. So we need to get the next generation up to speed on what's happening!

Right now, today, you have the privilege of getting involved with Pyle's magnificent organization and have a lot of fun doing so. Xerces (pronounced "Zerksees") is offering an online program entitled "X Kids" that you and/or your kids can take part in. All you have to do is go to the website or contact them at xkids@xerces.org, download the X Kids activity, and you're in.

You will go on a nature adventure with Blue the Butterfly in a beautiful color booklet to meet other invertebrate and learn about their superpowers.

In that free booklet, thanks to the talented staff of Xerces, you will meet many, many other invertebrates to rub elbows with, and become familiar with what they do to make your life so much fun.

The activity was put together by the Xerces Ambassadors as well as LandPaths, which provides special guidance and Spanish translation. There are nine different activities, some of which will take about five minutes to do, while others could take from 30 minutes to an hour.

Anyone can be an X Kid. The activity was designed for kids 8 to 11, but I'm 93 and really looking forward to it. And it can be fun for individuals or a part of a classroom or homeschool activity. Can't beat that with a stick.

So, don't let this wonderful look into the world of nature go by without taking advantage of it, and, if you want to, please feel free to contact me at my email address: jimnaturalist@gmail.com, and we can chinwag about X Kids or any other part of the natural world around us.

In closing, if you want to enjoy the world of nature from a butterfly's perspective, pick up a copy of Jo Brewer's wonderful book, "Wings in the Meadow." That will introduce you to what Xerces is all about.

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