Kids love bugs! Plan an insect safari. As portrayed in Hollywood movies, bugs have lives, very interesting lives. Plan an expedition to look for insects in the backyard or garden, at the park, or on a hike in the woods.
Depending on your locale and the season, sometimes may be better than others to find a large variety of insects. During the summer months, early morning and late afternoon into the evening will most likely yield the largest variety of bugs. Examine tree branches, the underside of plant leaves or rocks, dig into the dirt, and find out which insects exist in your backyard. (Insect Safari poster available in my Zazzle shop.)
What you’ll need
Mobile Phone camera
App to identify bugs (for example iNaturalist)
White index card
Magnifying glass (optional or use your phone)
Notebook and pencil
You can use your phone camera and app to record and identify insects on the spot. Handle with care. Try not to pick up any living bugs but rather observe. You don’t want to get pinched by a beetle or stung by a wasp. Likewise, insects are fragile, and you may damage a wing or break a leg if you pick one up.
Take a photo and use your app to help identify the insect. If it’s hard to see you can gently slip a white index card under it before taking its photo. Keep a list of the bugs you identify in your notebook listing the kind of bug, where it was found, the date and time of day, and any other information you may consider significant. It will depend on the age and interest of the child and how in-depth this examination should be.
Extend the adventure to the inside. Small children love to draw. Let them use crayons, colored pencils, or markers to draw the various bugs in their notebooks. Ask them to draw what the bug eats. Have them play a game of imagining what they might see if they were bug size.
Older children will want to examine the habitat and learn about the eating habits, life cycle, and expectancy of the various insects. Have a conversation about which bugs are beneficial or harmful and why. Stake out a one-foot square of your backyard or garden area and have them record the life that exists within that square foot over a period of time whether it be for the day or for the year. Are the same insects in that square in the evening as in the morning? Are there more or less at different times of the day? Do they live on plants, under a rock, or in the ground? Who or what is their enemy? Have them imagine a day in their little corner of the world and write a short story about insect life. It can be serious and analytical talking about how these insects interact to survive. Or let their imagination run wild with a flight of fanciful flies.
Record your wonderful finds and use them later for reference and/or research. Maybe for that science project you know you must do next fall. Some questions to consider are: What are their feeding habits, their habitats, and their life cycle? Which caterpillars will turn into butterflies and which ones will become moths? Which insects are beneficial and how do they make your garden grow? Do a scrapbook of photos. Under the photo of each insect, list the common name and scientific name, what it eats, and how long it lives. If you have photos of larva and butterflies, show both on the same page so next time you will know which larva turns into what butterfly. Children who show a real interest in this activity may want to return monthly or seasonally to see what if anything has changed.
Or you can just have fun with the photos, uploading them to your computer, and creating works of art from a colorful collection of greeting cards, fun stickers, to a poster worthy of framing.
An insect safari can be a fascinating and educational backyard adventure.
Did you know?
There are over one million described species of insects.
Insects have lived for some 200 million years.
Insects are related to crabs and lobsters.
Most insects are beneficial because they eat other insects, pollinate crops, are food for other animals, make products like honey and silk or have medical uses.
Insects have skeletons on the outside of their bodies called exoskeleton.
A cockroach can live for nine days without a head.
The cochineal insect is a source of natural red dye.
An adult head louse will be the color of the person's hair in which it lives.
An ant can pull 50 times its own weight.
Grasshoppers can jump 40 times their length.
A bee may fly up to 60 miles in one day to find food.
BugInfo, Smithsonian Institute
University of Kentucky Entomology Department
Learn about Nature - Insects