Are you ready for some fun in the garden? This week we’ll discover the mystery of the garden. Join our adventure, go outside and look for little animals that live around us. Try to build a bug hotel or a pitfall trap so you can examine the ‘mini-beasts’ closely.
Bugs are essential to life – from the bees that pollinate the flowers to the worms and beetles that mix up the dead matter into the soil and help them grow. Creating a bug hotel gives your kids an opportunity to look at habitats as well as discuss the types and functions of bugs in your environment.
We’re going to make a recycle bin bug hotel – but check out the extension activity for making a more permanent natural bug hotel.
1. Start off by designing your bug hotel on paper after looking at the materials in the recycling box – what will help bugs to hide and keep safe, which size of materials would be best, what sort of bugs do you think you would find in the garden?
2. Using a plastic pot as the container, fill with different materials – instead of a plastic pot you could use a shoe box but this will rapidly deteriorate when it rains.
3. Place it in a shady area about 2 ft off the ground.
You could create the bug hotel out of more natural materials. Why not try making one from old bricks and filling with sticks, pine cones, leaves, bamboo sticks from the vegetable garden? You could even make one with wood.
Use a backing board plus 4 parts – 2 longer equal lengths and 2 shorter lengths to create a rectangle secure with nails. Fill the void with natural materials and secure to a fence post in the garden. Watch the flying insects enter.
Why not try pond dipping this summer?
You don’t need much, just a net and a white tray. It’s amazing what bugs and creatures you’ll find in the edge of the pond. It’s a great activity to complement a bug hotel as well – some of those flying insects that find their way to the hotel start off life in the pond.
Here’s some relevant topic areas of Animals, Habitat and Soil recommended by our science teacher, designed to help young scientists.
See more worksheets here
Scientists like to be organised. All living things are grouped according to features which we can see (and some we can`t!). To start with, organisms are grouped as plants or animals. Animals are divided into two groups: those with a backbone, the VERTEBRATES and those without, the INVERTEBRATES. Insects are invertebrates and come in all different shapes and sizes and part of biology is classification of the bugs into their different phyla. Each phylum is identified as having similar characteristics e.g. all birds have feathers, all insects have 3 body parts. Invertebrates are made up of the most number of phyla and the common bugs fall into a few different types.
Using a key and identification guides you can classify the animals you find into phyla and then further down into species level. See further grouping and diagrams in the ‘Animal Kingdom & Classification’ paragraph below. First build a pitfall trap which provides an ideal way to collect the bugs.
1. Follow the video and leave the pitfall trap in place overnight
2. The following morning empty the pitfall trap into a plastic tray
3. Using a paint brush sift through the debris in the bottom of the pitfall trap and look out of any bugs that you find
4. Using a key identify the different bugs – look at how many legs, body segments and other recognisable features and group them
5. Record what you find
Tally up the different types of bugs – arachnids, insects, other arthropods, worms, molluscs so that you can produce a graph of the bugs to show the most common sorts of bugs in the garden. Classify the animals you find into phyla and then further down into species level. See the diagram in the ‘Animal Kingdom & Classification’ paragraph.
The animal kingdom is divided into two groups. Vertebrates (with a backbone) and invertebrates (without a backbone). The diagram below shows further grouping and examples of vertebrates and invertebrates. Arthropods from the invertebrates are even further classified into more groups. The diagram below shows four further groups of arthropods. It is really important that you remember the characteristics of all groups.
Carrying out the experiment on one night gives you a very quick look at what sort of bugs you have in that particular spot at that point in time – you can extend the activity by setting up the trap every night over a week.
Extending the activity further you can look at the climate – two different ways of doing this, set pitfall traps in different micro-habitats, in grassland, sun, shade, under a tree etc.… Or carry out the experiment when the weather is different on a rainy day.
By looking at the factors that are different what conclusions can you draw from the types of bugs that you have found? Do certain types of bugs prefer drier climates, more moisture, shady?
With more time – take this further, how do different habitats change the makeup of bugs that you find. A sand dune ecosystem, forest, urban back garden, pond edge etc.…
Summer is necessary down time for kids but that doesn`t mean learning has to stop instead take their interests and make it a summer long project. If they are interested in animals then create a fun summer project around the animals in their back garden, or if space is their thing then some late nights to watch the stars will make learning fun.
Rainy Day Mum is a marine biologist, environmental educator and qualified teacher who lives naturally with her children. In her blog she creates activities to support the kids learning at school and recommends many ideas to spend quality time with the children. See her article here.
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