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Superstars and Circus Performers: A Bug Hunt For Your Kids

— Parents' Choice Foundation
Updated on Apr 26, 2011

When you go on a bug hunt, you’ll discover a new and fascinating world, right beneath your feet. This world is populated with creatures that look like they’re straight out of science fiction. But there’s no make-believe here. The strange miniature beings you’ll discover will be real and alive!

What you’ll need for bug hunting:

  • A keen eye (like all wildlife, bugs are masters of camouflage)
  • Clean, clear containers with air holes or netting on top
  • Trowel, or large spoon to collect specimens
  • Notebook to write down and sketch the insects you find
  • An overripe banana and a spoonful of brown sugar
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Microscope (optional) (For kids Ages 7-12, try the Investigator Scout or for Ages 10 & Up, try the Quantum Alphascope Microscope)
  • For nighttime bug-hunting: all of the above, plus a flashlight (Little Tikes Glowin' Animal Flashlights, like the Glowin' Dino are perfect for little bug hunters at night)

Be prepared! Even though the vast majority of insects are perfectly harmless, there are a few aggressors who will be out there hunting you! Be sure to use your favorite bug-warding-off technique (bug spray, peppermint oil, etc.) to avoid flies and mosquitoes.

Looking at bugsWhere To Look

Many bugs are green, black or brown. They blend in with the natural scene so that their enemies cannot easily spot them. This is called camouflage. But if you know where to look, you will surely find success on your hunt.

Check the ground and the base of trees and bushes for flowers that are in bloom and check under leaves growing on the stems of plants. Turn over a rock to find crawling creatures. Look under loose bark for caterpillars.

Sugaring

One sure-fire way to attract bugs is to put out some sweet smelling food for them to eat. All you need for this is an over-ripe banana and some brown sugar. Mix these together and let them sit for a couple of hours. Then, go out and paint the gooey substance on the bark of a tree. Now all you have to do is wait. One by one, insects will soon appear, attracted by the scent of the sweet stuff you’ve lured them with.

AntYou can sugar after dark, too. Put the substance out before dusk, and return with a flashlight after nightfall. Are there more bugs at the sugar now than in the day? Count the different kinds of insect you’ve attracted. Are there more than you imagined, or fewer? What kinds of animals appeared at the sugar? Observe them as they eat. Are there any beetles on the tree? How about caterpillars, moths, or ants?

While you’re out hunting, why not keep a record? Bring some drawing paper and colored pens, pencils, or crayons, and make some sketches. Write down the date and time you saw the creature, and how many of them you saw.

Live & Let Live

You don’t have to kill or hurt a bug to study it. If you wish to observe the insects you find, simply “borrow” them from the wild for a short time by placing them in clean, clear containers. Prepare the containers by adding a little dirt and leaf mold (dead leaves), as well as a bottle-cap full of water. A few sticks with green leaves add a nice touch, too, to make your bug feel at home. Cover the top with a piece of net, or waxed paper, into which tiny holes have been pricked with a straight pin.

Preparing containers to save bugs

If you want to borrow a caterpillar or other creature from Mother Nature for a while, be sure to include, in its guest quarters, fresh, green leaves of whatever plant you found it on. Most likely, if you found the crawler on a particular plant, that plant is the animal’s major food source. Don’t borrow a creature for too long, though. Bugs have short lives and plenty of environmental work to do. Return your bug to the exact place you found him after no more than 24 hours.

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