Bug Hunting For Kids
Materials needed for ‘Bug hunting with kids’. Where to find and what to do with the insects once you have them.
Every kid loves bugs! Ok, ok, there are exceptions to that, but for the most part, kids do like bugs. They amaze them. Rightly so, as bugs are amazing creatures. Insects, bugs, creepy crawlers, whatever you call them, are the oldest living creatures on earth. They date older than the oldest dinosaur. Technically, there is a difference between insects and bugs. Insects have six legs, no backbone and three main parts to his body. Bugs are all the other creepy crawlies that do not fall under this description, such as centipedes. We are grouping them together here though, for the sake of old-fashioned bug hunting fun. Kids love them because they are some of the weirdest looking critters you could ever see. They come in every color of the rainbow, even glow in the dark green. Many are green, black or brown, camouflaged so well they can sit right out in the open without anyone even seeing them. Ranging from hard-shelled beetles, to soft and fuzzy caterpillars, they are all just waiting to be found by a junior bug hunter in training.
Materials needed can almost all be found right in your house. Plastic tweezers, or a large wooden spoon for picking up the bugs without hurting them. A clean jar or container to keep them in while they are being studied. Make sure and put air holes in the lid, or cover with perforated wax paper. A magnifying glass for close inspection will come in handy and a flashlight if your bug hunter will be out searching at night. A notebook to keep track of finds, and most important, a parent or older sibling, this to make sure dangerous bugs are avoided.
To find bugs, you will not have to go far. Any backyard, field, or park will provide more than enough specimens. Start your search by looking around flowers, bushes or at the base of trees. Turning over small or medium sized rocks will often turn up specimens. If there is a sandy area, you will most likely be able to observe ants in action. Ants are fun to watch. They are a social bug, and live in colonies of hundreds or even thousands of fellow ants. Ant ‘farms’ can even be purchased that are clear glass or plastic on each side so that viewing them ‘underground’ while they work is possible.
Once you have found an interesting bug, what do you do with it? First, ready your container to make it habitable for the bug's stay. Place a layer of clean dirt in the bottom, add a few green leaves on stems, and place a small lid (a milk cap works great) in the bottom with a bit of water in it. Then you will need to carefully pick him up with the spoon or tweezers. Taking care not to crush or squish him, place him carefully in your container.
What do you do once you have your bug visitor in his jar? Get out the notebook and magnifying glass. Then ask and answer these questions:
Where did you find him?
What season is it?
Were there any other bugs around?
Like him or different ones?
What color is he?
Does he have any distinctive features?
How many legs does he have?
Does he have wings?
Are there any other questions that you can think of?
If you need to get a closer look at him than viewing him through the jar will allow, carefully take him out and use the magnifying glass to get a better look. Do not keep your bug longer than a day or two, or your bug friend will expire. Please return him to where you found him after you have taken a bit of time to study him. If you happen across a bug that looks interesting, but is dead, you can still view him and gather information the same as you would from a live specimen.
Keeping a notebook of all this activity will give you the chance to compare different bug’s peculiarities and similarities. Besides answering the questions, if you can draw even a bit, sketch in the margins by the notes you have taken an outline of each bug also. This will help you as you look through your notes in the future. Now that you have an idea where to start, get out there. Who knows, you may be the world’s next entomologist!