Yesterday, my family and I were playing in the backyard when Squeak, one of my 1.5 year old twins, spied a creature on a tree. She turned to me, pointed her finger and boldly said, ‘spider!’
The twins are still only toddlers, so we have been encouraging wildlife appreciation through singing nursery rhymes, wildlife songs and encouraging pet love with a gentle hand. But it was time to introduce them to some other little creepy crawlies. Miss Possum came along for the ride too, because this activity really has no age limit.
So, here’s what we did.
I grabbed a sheet from inside (white is the best, but any light coloured sheet would work).
I lay it under the tree (we used a lilly pilly tree) and spread the sheet out.
Then, we shook the tree and the branches. We had to give it a good vigorous shake.
The bug search began
Here’s what we found.
There were many bugs that were too small for my camera’s photographic abilities. Make sure you have a magnifying glass with you.
We found seven different species of bug, plus three arachnids.
I knew the lilly pilly tree would be perfect for this activity because we’ve searched for bugs on that tree before. It’s obvious I don’t use pesticides because the leaves are very bug-eaten. The tree grows perfectly fine with all the insects on it, and with the amount of spiders we found on the sheet under the tree, I’m fairly certain they are keeping the bug population under control. I love scouring trees for bugs and spiders.
I let the girls have a bug on their clothes. They spent ten minutes perplexed, interacting with the little creature. It was delightful to watch. Miss Possum called hers Beadie.
The twins (and Miss Possum) enjoyed this activity so much, yet it was one of the easiest activities to organise. It took 2 minutes to grab a sheet, lay it under a tree and shake it, but our whole afternoon was filled with bug investigation. We will definitely be doing this activity again!
Follow-on ideas for older children
- Explain predator-prey relationships. Why are there bugs and why are there spiders? What roles do they play in their tree environment?
- Do an experiment. Try putting the sheet under different types of trees. Score how many animals you get from each tree. Think about why one tree may have more bugs than another. E.g. We put a sheet under a golden cane palm tree and received one bug. We thought it might be because lilly pillies are native to Australia and golden canes are not, therefore Australian bugs haven’t adapted to eating golden cane palms.
- Look closer. After your sheet search, look closer at the tree. Are there any animals that didn’t fall onto the sheet? Why didn’t they fall but others did?
- Study a local wildlife field guide. If you’d like to learn more about the creatures you find, why not refer to a reference book. You can buy them at your local bookshop or borrow them from the library.
There were a lot of spiders during this experiment; this activity should be fully supervised. I watched my girls very closely to ensure they didn’t touch spiders or bugs I knew weren’t very safe.
Have you and your children ever hunted for bugs?