Does your family enjoy exploring bugs and other fauna in the backyard?
Yesterday, my family and I were playing in the backyard when 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!’
I was so proud. That was the moment I decided the twins were ready to join in with their big sister on more complex wildlife activities, like exploring bugs in their natural environment.
But it was time to introduce them to some other little creepy crawlies. My eldest daughter came along for the ride too, because this activity really has no age limit.
Exploring bugs with a white sheet
What you’ll need:
- a white sheet (white is the best, but any light coloured sheet would work)
- A magnifying glass
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.
What to do:
It’s really simple.
- Lay the sheet under a tree and spread it out.
- Shake the tree and the branches. Give it a good vigorous shake!
- Take a closer look at whatever falls onto the sheet.
Here’s what we found
Here’s what we found.
There were more, but quite a few were too small for my camera’s photographic abilities!
We found seven different species of bug, plus three arachnids.
Exploring bugs through observation and discussion
Spend some time observing the bugs. If you know some of the bugs are harmless, let your child touch or hold them.
Helpful prompts to encourage curiosity
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.
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, refer to a reference book. You can buy them at your local bookshop or borrow them from the library.
Do you explore bugs with your kids?