- Identify various insects that contribute to the composting process
- Describe their role in the process
Like many things in life, it’s the unsung heroes that do the heavy lifting by performing the jobs that many would have no interest in doing. Believe it or not, insects do this in the composting process. The chemical decomposers like bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms play a critical role in the process, changing the chemistry of organic matter in the decomposition process. But insects do the dirty work, literally.
Sow bugs, Springtails, mites, and a variety of other macroorganisms work in the trenches eating, crunching, tearing, chewing, biting, and grinding organic matter into smaller bits. They do the physical work in the compost bin. And like in many other ecosystems, insects are both predator and prey. The feed on primary decomposers like bacteria and nematodes and are themselves food for larger tertiary decomposers such as centipedes, beetles, and ants.
There’s no doubt that microorganisms, specifically the aerobic decomposers, do the most important work but it’s the insects that help to break all that organic matter down into bite sized morsels for the bacteria to do its work.
Teach the Teacher
Tools & Materials
- Matching Worksheet printouts - one for each Student
- Flat screen or projector
- Internet access to stream the Insect Profiles
- Primary consumers
- Secondary consumers
- Tertiary consumers
Introduction (15 minutes)
Begin the lesson by describing the role that insects play in the composting process. Mention their place in the hierarchy, serving as both predator and prey. Then review each of the featured insects one by one with the class, mentioning each by name and providing a description for each.
Activity (10 minutes)
Give each Student a handout of the Matching Worksheet and have them draw a line from the image of the insect to the name to pair them correctly.Discussion (10 minutes)Which of the insects that we profiled do you think is the hardest working in the compost bin? Which one is the most aggressive?
Assessment (5 minutes)
Use the following questions to assess the Students before and after the lesson. Tally the responses of the group in the Assessment Tracking Log for comparison:
- By a show of hands, how many of you can name two insects that can be found in the composting system?
- Now that you’ve explored the various insects that call compost home, how many of you can name two insects we might find in our system?
This lesson, and all other lessons on this website, are intended for use by teachers in the classroom. These lessons are protected by US and International copyright laws. Reproduction or distribution of lesson content, supporting materials, or digital creative is prohibited with written permission from Modern Steader LLC.