Tag Archives: Insects

Stick Insect(icide)

We have had stick insects as ‘pets’ for the past six years.  When we got our first one the children were all so excited and there was a long process to pick a name for her.  It didn’t take long for us to discover that stick insects are so prolific that naming them all is impossible.

I think having stick insects is a wonderful science activity.  As with any activity some of the children are very interested – watching the insects for long periods of time, eagerly anticipating the hatching and molting stages and more.  Other children have little interest and rarely even notice their existence in our room.

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The ‘baby’ stage is my personal favourite.  They are cute when they first hatch although they can occasionally escape when they are that small;

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I only keep a few of the eggs that are laid and even then when they hatch it sometimes seems like we may have too many.  Sadly (luckily?) only a small percentage of the babies make it to adulthood and lay eggs for our next generation of insects.

Sometimes the little ones are hard to find when they camouflage on the sticks or on the lettuce leaf;

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As they continue to grow they are easier to see but they also make more mess;

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On a few occasions we have run into a problem when we have a particularly large number of insects at various stages.  The adults make the cage very dirty but the numerous hatch-lings make it difficult to properly clean and keep everyone contained.  If it is winter I will take the container outside briefly to clean it – cold insects are slow insects.

Last month we were at the overcrowded, filthy cage level but it wasn’t yet cold enough outside to slow them down.  Then something unexpected happened.  I ran out of romaine lettuce and there was NONE in the fresh produce section of the store where I was shopping.  Instead of making a special trip to another store just for insect food I decided to buy a package of romaine hearts.

Back at home I tossed two leafs into the cage for the insects.  The next day ALL of them were dead.  A hundred + infant to adult stick insects were strewn across the bottom of the cage.  I assume insecticide caused the mass extinction and I know I won’t be buying packaged romaine hearts for any reason anymore.

For the first time in six years we have no stick insects.  I managed to save a few dozen eggs when I cleaned the cage but only time will tell if the insecticide affected them too 😦

Summer Holidays

So, today is the last day before my ‘holiday’ begins.  As usual I have a HUGE list of projects to complete this summer.  Some of them are smaller projects that will be done on weekends.

The ‘big’ project will involve rearranging the parking area, moving the fence,  and an overhaul of the gravel area and loose parts storage.  I wrote about the plans last Spring – read about it here.  We already built/moved the sheds but ran out of time last summer to complete the project.

I’ve had nearly a full week with my new summer group and it was wonderful.  Everyone is settling in to our routine and the lack of a school-defined schedule has greatly improved the ‘flow’ of the day.

Outside I have all the new stumps stored in the corner of the yard waiting until the yard project begins.  Interestingly, the older children have deemed this to be the ‘perfect cooking spot’.  Hmmm, I’ll have to modify my plans a little so we can continue to accommodate this;

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The old stumps are still as popular as ever.  The lone boy in the group seems somewhat concerned about all the climbing and jumping about.

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Later he put on the construction helmet and did this;

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‘No climbing here’ 🙂

I found a dead moth and gave it to the insect lovers.

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Turns out it wasn’t dead – just injured – so it was rushed to the emergency room. For nearly an hour a team of dedicated medical personnel worked to save the moth – or at least make it a little more comfortable.  Here is his x-ray/chart;

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As excited a I am about all the renovations I have planned for the next two weeks I am also going to miss these kinds of activities too.  However, I’m certain we’ll have many more adventures when we return.

Bees and More

We have many insects in our yard.  Our garden has several plants chosen specifically because they attract insects.  The bees love the giant hyssop and we love watching the bees;

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This butterfly was outside the yard when the children first saw it.  They called it repeatedly and finally it obliged and flew into our garden so we could see it better.

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Earlier this spring we had a nest of baby spiders by the bench;

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Those baby spiders entertained us for several days before they left to find homes elsewhere.  The children were very protective of the baby spiders and ensured no one sat on the bench and damaged the web.

Some of the children are afraid of bugs – especially spiders and wasps.  I believe that learning about the insects we encounter will help the children overcome any fear of them. When we know what these insect do we begin to understand how they can benefit us.

Even wasps are welcome to visit our yard – they have a job to do in the garden too.  We don’t let them build their nests where we play though.  When they are near we give them the respect they deserve.

Daily I am summoned to various parts of the yard by a child asking “What kind of bug is this?” That question is followed by many more.  I don’t always have the answers but we do research to find out more.

I always try to remain calm even when we discover insects that I don’t like – such as these aphids we just found on the oats in our garden;

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Where are the lady bugs – we need them now!  A strong negative reaction may instil unnecessary fear.  I’ll explain why I dislike certain insects and what we can do to avoid contact with those that we don’t like.

Earlier this week two of the girls were sitting in the garden smelling the herbs and flowers.  They were conversing quietly and I overheard one say “Ok, it’s your turn to pet him now – he’s really soft.”

I moved closer to see what they had found.  It was a bee – possibly the biggest, fattest, fluffiest bumble bee I have ever seen.  It was busy moving from one flower to the next and every time it landed the girls would PET IT!?!?

I tried to remain calm as I said “Please don’t pet the bumble bee.” but I’m sure my voice was a much higher pitch than normal.

“But we love him” the girls replied.

“Yes, I know, but he’s busy working and we don’t want to make him angry.  Watch him but don’t interrupt what he is doing.”

Love my job 🙂

Delightful or Creepy

The children enjoy burying their feet in the gravel;

Below the surface it is so cool and the weight of the gravel adds another sensory experience.

The baby found something she thought was interesting – sawdust.  There was a pile of it over from when my husband cut up some kindling.  It was just within her reach and it was so soft and fluffy;

She took handfuls of the sawdust to the other side of the yard, placed it on the bench and then wiped it off;

Then she went and got some more.  It was a process she enjoyed for quite some time.  She was a little surprised when she found something else in the sawdust but the other children were delighted to be able to have her unwanted discovery;

I saw a beautiful black and yellow butterfly fly across the yard and ran over to where it landed in hopes that I might be able to get a picture of it.  When I got there I discovered that it wasn’t a butterfly after all;

I poked it to make it fly again just to make sure and yes – this little fella does have fancy wings.  I learned something new!  There have been a lot of crickets and grasshoppers around lately and the children are thrilled;

Then one of the children asked “What are those things in the wasp trap?”  So I went to look;

That picture didn’t turn out well but I wasn’t about to take any more – had to dispose of that wasp trap full of maggots ewww, ewWW, EWWW!  Quick find me something to get that image out of my head.

The baby has a new interest;

The other children have abandoned their shoes to enjoy a follow the leader/obstacle course game on the new grass;

Now that is delightful 🙂

Garden Visitor

Yesterday we discovered a visitor in our garden.  It was crawling on the patch of earth where our milkweed plant should be — our milkweed did not appear this spring, I suspect the unusual winter confused or killed it.

I hoped our visitor wasn’t too dissappointed that we didn’t have any milkweed.  We watched as he/she travelled over to the sweet grass instead;

Some of the children were concerened for the caterpillar’s safety and suggested that we should put it in a jar.  Instead, we discussed what the caterpillar needed to survive and eventually become a butterfly.  Somewhat reluctantly the children agreed that the garden was a better place for our visitor to stay.

Our native prairie plants have been attraching an abundant array of interesting visitors including ladybug nymphs and huge fuzzy bumble bees.  Now we can add monarchs to the list of visitors to our garden.  🙂

Bugs

I think most children are fascinated by insects, worms, spiders and the like.  In my experience, those who are fearful or disgusted by these creatures have been taught to do so.

Having walking stick insects in our science area has given us the opportunity to study these insects up close on a regular basis.  We have experienced their entire life cycle from egg to adult.  We’ve watched them hatch and seen them grow each time they moult.

They have provided a chance for even the most timid amongst us to view  insect life.  These are not a species that is native to our part of the world so we keep them safely contained.

I will admit that I do not like all creepy crawlies – centipedes for example will have me moving very quickly in the opposite direction.  If I do stay put I realize that they are moving quickly away from me too.

I make it a goal to ensure that I learn something about each new creature I meet and I encourage the children to do the same. Bugguide.net has been a tremendous resource for us when we find something new.

Even if we are fearful or disturbed by them we try not harm them.  Instead, we discover their purpose and if we don’t like them we learn how to avoid them or discourage them from being in our part of the environment.

There are a few insects and spiders that I like to handle but mostly I prefer to just observe them.  However, some of the children seek out these critters and enjoy all contact with them.

Others prefer to keep their distance and choose to simply watch the others interact.  Eventually even these apprehensive children may attempt to overcome their fear and willingly venture forward.

Together we determine which ones are the ‘good bugs’ – the ones we want to have near by.  We learn ways to dissuade those that are harmful and attract those that are beneficial.  This year the addition of several native prairie plants has provided an enticing habitat for many bees and butterflies that we welcome in our garden.

No matter how small we learn to understand differences, acknowledge values, and work together and find ways to co-exist peacefully in the world we share.

Eggs

Our stick bugs have begun laying eggs.

Our original stick bug – Twiggy – had died before ever laying eggs so this is a new experience for all of us.  Each new question the children come up with results in a trip to Google to find out.  I am definitely not a stick bug expert so I don’t know the answers either.

I’m amazed by the amount of stick insect info on the net and especially astounded by the number of youtube videos of hatching insects!  This has been an incredible learning experience for all of us.

The first important fact we’ve discovered is that it will be many months before they begin to hatch and some could take years.  This is a calming fact for me since my first reaction was mild panic as I envisioned a sudden stick bug population explosion.

The children however may loose interest quickly which is why I consider the internet to be such an important learning tool.  In true emergent curriculum fashion we can find the answers to our questions when the children are actively engaged in the activity instead of waiting for a trip to the library or a scheduled “insect theme” week.

So now the dilemma for me is what to do to keep the children engaged in learning with the ‘event’ so far away.  I could just wait, let the initial interest die off and them reignite it in a few months when (and if) hatching begins.

I could also guide the children towards another similar topic – but what?  The answer to that came from the five year old who asked ‘Why aren’t they white?”  After a brief discussion I discovered that he knew some eggs could be brown but most were white.  Up until now his only experience with eggs has been with the ones he’s seen in the grocery store or on the farm.

I quickly grabbed my bird book and we checked out the amazing variety of eggs. Now we have a topic.  Eggs.  Oh, the things we can do with eggs….

My mind is spinning with ideas.  It’s time to start an idea web about eggs.  This is emergent curriculum in action.