4th grade enjoys mealworms for breakfast

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Yum-ee! Nothing like a big bowl of mealworms for breakfast. Don’t forget the seasoned salts!

If you were near the Belvedere cafeteria Monday morning, you probably heard a lot of shrieking and uproar from kids. USDA entomologist Mike Gates visited, bringing trays of insects — and a bag of edible ones, too.

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A student trying a mealworm. The worms are bland and crunchy, kind of like dry cereal.

Mr Gates kept the fourth-grade laughing and engaged while he told them about stinkbugs and their wasp predators, made a plea for fewer cheetah/elephant programs and more insects/bacteria ones on Animal Planet, and explained that ants’ biomass outweighs humans‘ (10 quintillion tons – that’s 18 zeroes – compared to our measly 500 million tons; don’t even begin to contemplate the biomass of bacteria). He also pointed out that insect-pollinated plants are more nutritious for humans than wind-pollinated. If that has you scratching your head, think of all fruits and vegetables versus plants like dandelions and common milkweed.

Gates electrified the crowd when he brought up the subject of eating insects. “Have you ever eaten an insect?” he asked. Almost everybody said no. He then held up successive containers of mac ‘n’ cheese, peanut butter, chocolate bars and spaghetti sauce, asking with each one, “Have you ever eaten this?”

After the kids yelled “yes” four times, he roared, “Then you’ve eaten insects!”

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After that, it was Snack Time. The kids were encouraged (but not required) to sample the dried mealworms with different salts and to use magnifying lenses to observe the various species that Mr. Gates brought in.

In celebration of National Pollinator Week, students could take home packets of native wildflower seeds that the National Park Service gave Belvedere. The packets include a diverse mix of pollinator-supporting plants, including coneflowers, bee balm and ox-eye sunflowers. The seeds also were distributed to staff and made available to families during last week’s garden party.

Click here to learn more about pollinators, pollinator-friendly plants and the Park Service’s pollinator week. #PollinatorWeek #FindYourPark

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Students pick up up National Park Service packets of pollinator-friendly wildflowers.

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Fourth-graders survey some of the insects that USDA entomologist Mike Gates brought to Belvedere.

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