Backyard Bug Safari

For today’s Bug Week activity, we’re taking you on a safari in your own backyard (or other outdoor space).

No special tools needed, though a magnifying glass, spoon/small shovel, and a container to hold your critters are nice to have.

This is a great time to practice your observation and inquiry skills. Questions like “Why do you think it has so many legs?” and “What do you think that ladybug eats?” will help your child build language, vocabulary, and STEM skills to benefit them in school- and beyond!

*Remember to be gentle with the critters that you find, and release them after you are finished observing them!*

LADYBUGS

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Don’t let that cute coloration fool you! These insects are predators who can often be found eating aphids on plants.

There are over 6,000 species of ladybugs (also called ladybird beetles) around the world. They come in many different patterns and colors.

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Like butterflies, their “babies” hatch out of eggs as larva. After about two weeks, the larva undergo metamorphosis and emerge as the small, brightly-colored insect that we are familiar with!

PILLBUGS

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Pillbugs (also called sowbugs or roly polys) are actually a type of crustacean! Unlike their shrimp and lobster cousins, pillbugs have adapted to live on land. They have gills to breathe and are usually found in moist areas like under rocks or potted plants.

These critters are known for their ability to roll into a ball when disturbed. They eat dead and decaying plant material like fallen leaves- think of them as one of nature’s recyclers!

ANTS

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Ants are one of our favorite insects! Observe two ants meeting on an ant trail- if you look closely, you’ll see that their antennas are moving rapidly or even touching each other. This is how ants “talk”! They release small bursts of chemicals (pheremones) to communicate to their sisters.

Ants live in a large group called a colony. The colony works together to collect food, fight off invaders, and take care of their babies.

Ants are incredibly strong and can carry 50 times their own body weight- pretty amazing for a humble little insect!

BUTTERFLIES

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Butterflies are one of our most beloved insects. With their bright-colored wings, it’s easy to see why!

All butterflies have a 4 stage life cycle: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult butterfly. Caterpillars eat plant leaves, while the adults sip nectar and occasionally eat a bit of flower pollen.

You can help butterflies where you live by growing plants like milkweed for monarch caterpillars, or pollinator plants such as zinnias, lantana, sunflowers, and yarrow. And please, avoid using pesticides and herbicides if you can!

CRANE FLIES

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These long-legged flies are sometimes called mosquito hawks, but they do not eat mosquitos, nor do they bite people!

These delicate and harmless flies spend the first part of their life as larva underground, feeding on roots and decaying plants. Come springtime, they emerge and can be found flying around outside or hanging under leaves. If they come into your house, simply place a cup over them and transfer them outside.

We hope you enjoy your Bug Safari! Please leave a comment below and let us know what you found!

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