Sunday, January 14, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 14, 2001

Hawai'i Nature Squad
Some bugs aren't really bugs at all

By Hawai'i Nature Center

Another chapter in the continuing adventures of the Hawaii Nature Squad as it investigates mysteries and wonders in the environment.

Sow bugs are landlubber cousins of crabs and lobsters. Like them, they breathe through gills.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

It was a gray, chilly Hawaiian winter day. Detective Andy Anole, of the Hawai
i Nature Squad, sat at his desk watching the raindrops splash on his window.

The unmistakable footsteps of Captain Wekiu’s six feet caught his attention. The captain’s antennae poked through the door to Andy’s office.

"Boy, it has been a while since I’ve pounded the pavement," said the captain. "Grab your curiosity kit, Andy. I’ve decided to take on our latest mystery myself!"

Andy’s wide reptile eyes got wider as he jumped out of his seat, surprised to find himself on assignment with his boss.

"This is perfect weather for me to be outside. So I thought I would partner up with you on this one," explained Captain Wekiu as they headed to the Early School in Moiliili. "A student, Quinn Ferrar, wants to know why she finds these small, gray bugs with lots of legs only under the rocks and flower pots at school. I believe she’s talking about the bug that’s also known as the isopod, roly-poly, wood louse or pill bug."

"Are you sure you want to be part of this investigation? This could be down and dirty work," warned the lizard detective.

"As long as it’s cool and shady, I’m chillin’," said the captain, a native "Mauna Kean."

At the school, donning hard hats, with picks and shovels in hand, Detective Anole and Captain W«kiu dug a tunnel into the soft soil of the schoolyard.

Surfacing under a rock, they heard the sound of crunching and chewing. As their eyes adjusted to the dark, they could see the distinct outline of a centipede hungrily biting into a little, gray critter. He was slowly chewing, then spitting out the little white legs.

"Never did like those legs," drooled the centipede. "Tickle my throat as they go down. But the rest is deeelicious! Crunchy on the outside, and the inside tastes like crab!"

"Sorry to interrupt," Captain W«kiu cut in, backing away warily from the centipede’s long, segmented body. "We’re from the Hawaii Nature Squad, investigating the wildlife under the rocks in this area. I think you are feasting on our No. 1 bug suspect."

"Yeah, well I caught these tasty morsels fair and square!" snapped the centipede. "I can always find them where it is dark and damp. They actually aren’t bugs at all, but distant cousins of crustaceans, like crabs and lobsters. Besides," the centipede continued, smiling, as he uncurled his long body, "they’re the closest thing I’ll ever get to seafood."

"I may be a little rusty at interviewing witnesses," Captain W«kiu replied slowly, "but I do know crustaceans have gills and live in the water. These guys are living in the dirt!"

"Trust me," said the centipede. "Take a look."

He turned over what was left of his lunch and pointed to gills on the very end of the sow bug’s mauled abdomen. "So now you know why I look for moist places to find a crustacean lunch," explained the centipede. "These gills must be kept damp. Dark, moist places, like under rocks and flower pots, are a guaranteed sow bug buffet!"

"Looks like we can report back to Quinn with a positive ID on that school yard wildlife," Captain Wekiu announced with a triumphant smile.

Have you seen something unusual in nature that you want the Hawaii Nature Squad to investigate? Write us a letter with your name, age, school, name of parent(s) and telephone number. Mail it to Hawaii Nature Squad, c/o Hawaii Nature Center, 2131 Makiki Heights Drive, Honolulu, HI 96822, or fax 955-0116. You may e-mail only if you’re 13 or older.

"Hawaii Nature Squad" is written by Kim Welch, Kelly Perry and Ati Jeffers-Fabro of Hawaii Nature Center, an environmental education organization. It alternates in this spot with "Dr. Gadget’s Science Machine."

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