Home » Science: Insects and Arachnids (Part 3)

Science: Insects and Arachnids (Part 3)

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Here is the continuation of our insect and arachnid unit. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The coolest hands on thing we did for this unit would definitely have to be watching caterpillars metamorphosis into butterflies. We bought the Insect Lore Butterfly Garden kit, which comes with a pop up basket, a dropper, instructions, and a coupon for butterfly larva (i.e. caterpillars). I redeemed the coupon online (saved time) and received the larva fairly quickly. Here are some pics of the journey.

We received this cup in the mail, which includes 5 caterpillars (3 are guaranteed to become butterflies, but in our case they all did!), and the caterpillar food (brown stuff at bottom). This is about the second day we had them.

We inspected our caterpillars on a daily basis. In fact I became a little obsessed and would watch them all the time. They’re so fascinating to watch! They grew like crazy. This is the 5th day we had them.

By the 8th day a couple of them made their button of silk at the top and hung upside down in the j shape.

The same day those 2 became a chrysalis and shed their skin for the last time.

A couple more days and they all had entered the chrysalis stage. This video is of the last of our caterpillars becoming a chrysalis and shedding its skin a last time. Its wiggling to detach the skin from itself which you see fall off at the end. (Sorry for lack of light. It was spur of the moment capturing.)

The next day I pinned the paper from the cup ,which held the chrysalises, to the inside of the butterfly pop up basket.

This is what remained in the cup. All the brown clumps are their waste (called frass) and the black clumps are the old skins they shed. They also made quite a bit of silk which I had to tear away from the paper top.

At around the 16th day they started popping out of their cocoon. It happened so quickly we couldn’t watch them break out, it was more like one moment we looked and they were chrysalis and next moment the butterfly was hanging on the basket. I put some flowers from our garden in the basket in the short term and then later added more flowers with some pieces of watermelon. I caught one drinking nectar from the flower and the other drinking from the watermelon with their “straw” mouth. :) I also saw some of them touching around with their front feet, wondering if they were “tasting”.

Once they all came out we let them go in our backyard pretty much right away. I had this fear that if we kept them too long they would get “depressed” and die. I know, sounds silly, but the cricket incident was still fresh in my mind. Plus my cat discovered them by their “fluttering” sounds and I was scared I’d find him batting the basket. So we unceremoniously let them loose and watched them go. Most just flew out on their own. I tried to get one to sit on my hand but it flew away pretty quickly too. Guess they don’t love captivity too much? :) A couple landed in the grass nearby but when we approached them they continued to fly off.

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On to other things now… I saw another cool bee honeycomb art craft here. I had saved some bubble wrap previously, so I mixed some paint and had S paint all over the bubble wrap. Try to do it quickly and thickly before it dries.

The stamp it on a piece of paper. I used watercolor paper since its thicker.

After this dried I had him finger print some yellow all around for the bees. Then I drew in the lines.

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I saw this butterfly matching file folder game and thought it’d be great for S. The thing I like about it is that the butterflies from this site are all kind of dull colors. Nothing stands out, so it was challenging for S to match them, since they all looked similar.

Here it is completed. Instructions on assembling: First I cut a file in half and added it to another folder, so it made three pages when folded out. I printed the butterflies out from the site. I cut each in half. Half I laminated in the machine. The other halves I pasted onto the file folder and then put self laminating sheets on top to protect it. When you fold in the right side page, there is an envelope I pasted for the butterfly halves to be stored when not in use.

Some more art inspiration here. I had him paint with the bugs too, but honestly S didn’t like this. Paint kept getting on his hands and it bothered him.

Finished product.

A local nature center had an open house that we went to. They did not have too many bug related things but one of the booths had these preserved insects and arachnids. We quickly reviewed the body part names and the differences between the two.

Another quickie but fun idea I got from here was to wrap up S in toilet paper and then have him pretend to be a butterfly breaking out of the chrysalis. So maybe the activity only took 1 minute but he still thought it was fun.

Last year I had made this butterfly symmetry busy bag (created by All Our Days) but never used it. So our bug unit was an occasion to bring it out. Additionally, it just so happened that one of our recent math lessons also discussed the concept of symmetry, so it was perfect timing. Basically you print/laminate the cards, cut out the felt shapes, then with each card you create the other symmetrical side of the butterfly. Lots of fun!

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I saw this cool experiment regarding the ants preference of food. I made a collection of food items and then we headed out to a local park that I knew had ant piles (thankfully our yard doesn’t have any).  From bottom clockwise I brought: a baby carrot, dead cricket (canned from pet store), watermelon, baby potato, piece of slice white bread, and a lollipop. I set each food item on a small paper towel so we could easily see the ants. Unfortunately I didn’t get many pictures of S in action, mainly because I was terrified that the fire ants would bite him (they will bite incessantly and make you swell up!), so I told him to wait on the sidewalk while I did the arrangements and close monitoring.

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I did give an easy half hour for the ants to discover the food (they were already swarming around the mound) but oddly they did not pay much mind to the food. Based on the original experimenter’s findings I thought our cricket would be a top hit, but I could not find any ants near it at all; I wonder if it being canned had any effect. The winner (even though it also only had a few around it) was the lollipop. The runner up would be the bread which was a surprise to me. As I was cleaning up I did discover quite a few ants under the watermelon napkin. Everything else was essentially untouched.

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I think the carrot was their least favorite. Not one ant went by to even look at it. ;)

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You can read the last post, Part 4, here.

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