Friday, October 14, 2011

Going on a Bug Hunt!

Creepy crawlies are all around us all the time, but they are very visible in decorations at this time of year.    Incidentally this is also a wonderful time to look for bugs before they seek warmer homes for the winter.   This activity could take 15 minutes of a few hours depending on how much fun you are having.  I will also include some directions in case you want to bring some temporary “friends” into your house for a couple days of observation in the extension section.  The true goal of this exercise is to encourage your children to explore, to tell you what they find, and to get excited about making observations.  Learning about bugs is a wonderful side-effect.  The ability to get excited about finding animals is the biggest prerequisite of this activity; as such it is great for both preschoolers and toddlers so there will be no toddler Tuesday this week.

A pillbug found under a stepping stone.
A word about this exploration:  Many times parents find bugs to be scary or uncomfortable, but children are born finding them fascinating.  I am thankfully not afraid of bugs, my fear is snakes.  My four year old daughter loves them and I just want to be as far away as possible.  I hope that she has no idea how much I do not like them.  When she asks if I think they are pretty, I tell her that they are amazing creatures, but not my favorite.   As a parent, I think that it is very hard, but important to keep from passing on our discomfort to our children.   I would suggest that if insects make you uncomfortable you make sure to use paintbrushes (and perhaps even garden gloves) as suggested in the materials so that you do not have to touch the bugs.  Also remember that some insects do sting or bite, be cautious about what you let your children pick up but know that most insects in the United States are not aggressive so long as children do not pick them up or touch them (except wasps, fire ants, scorpions, and killer bees which you want to stay away from).

Parent Background Guide   
This week we are focusing on organisms that have external skeletons called exoskeletons rather than the internal skeletons that have been our focus of the last two weeks.  During this exploration you will encounter many different types of animals with your children.  “Bug” is a general term.  More specifically you might find the following types of animals:
Insects – animals with 6 legs including ants, bees, beetles, praying mantis, crickets, butterflies, and an infinitely large variety of other organisms.
Arachnids –animals with 8 legs including Spiders, Scorpions, and Ticks
Crustaceans – Pill Bugs, shrimp, lobsters (easy to find under concrete items like stepping stones and borders).
You are also likely to find Molluscs – slugs and snails that are not considered bugs.

This week’s activity

All materials are optional as the most important part of this exploration is really a willingness to have fun. 
Paintbrushes to sort through leaves and brush away dirt. (I got 3/$1 at Dollar Tree)
Hand magnifying glasses to get a good look.
A camera to “collect” your finds.
Long pants and bug spray if mosquitos and ticks are still a risk in your area.
Discovery time:   
Today’s activity is really about just going outside and looking around.  The following places are great places to find bugs:  flowers, piles of leaves, on the bark of trees, taller grasses, underneath slides and walkways, yellow components of playgrounds, be sure to look under rocks and stepping stones.  As you are looking at the bugs it is a great opportunity to just follow your child’s lead.  Go at their pace, and help them to look where they would like to look, giving suggestions. Take pictures of their finds and let them tell you what they see. 

Tying it together:   
After coming back into the house, I asked my kids to tell me the favorite thing that they found and the thing that was most surprising to them.  We also talked about the fact that there were a lot of different bugs, and that there were lots and lots of differences.

If you or your children are curious about specific insects the following websites are great for identifying what you have found: 
Bug Guide
Insect Identification for the Casual Observer

Fun Facts

A beetle found under leaves.
Ø  While gathering food, a bee may fly up to 60 miles in one day.
Ø  Ants can lift and carry more than fifty times their own weight.

Ø  Only female mosquitoes bite human.  Male mosquitoes live on plant juices and decomposing organic material.

Ø  Beetles account for one quarter of all known species of plants and animals. There are more kinds of beetles than all plants.

Our houseguests!
Rolli Polli Pet –   Armadillidiidae also called Pill Bugs or Rolli-Pollies are very easy to find and to care for in your home.  We are currently entertaining 6 pill bug house guests for the weekend.  Pill bugs do not bite, and will not infest your home.  Care and setup is very simple.  A large glass jar is the perfect home for a pill bug.  Their needs are simple.  Place a layer of moist (not wet) soil in the bottom of the jar.  Also include some small twigs, dead leaves, and if you will be keeping them for a long period of time a small piece of concrete (which they need to eat in small amounts to aid in digestion).   You will want to feed them small amounts of uneaten vegetable matter or dead leaves.  You can give them a variety of different things and your children can see which things they prefer.  Also make sure to mist the jar with water to keep it humid, but not wet.  If you live in a climate that becomes cold, make sure to return your pill bugs to the outside before the ground gets too hard to borough or you can keep them until spring.  Pill bugs can live 2-3 years.  For more information see:

No comments:

Post a Comment