Help Your Child Overcome a Fear of Bugs by Raising Them at Home
- Provide them about a 3 cm layer of dry bran meal that serves as their food as well as their habitat.
- Many people buy or raise mealworms to feed fish, pet reptiles, or crayfish.
- They can be purchased at a pet store, bait store, or from a biological supply company online.
- Use a plastic box the size of a shoe box and place a double layer of paper towel over the top of the meal. Spray it once or twice a day with water and you will have very healthy mealworms that produce many generations of insects.
- Children can provide different conditions around their habitat or out on a table and then they can observe the mealworms for several minutes at a time.
- To deduce the mealworms’ habitat preferences, be sure that only one variable is changed at a time.
- Offer a choice of light or dark; a choice of moist or dry; or later place some larvae in the center of four pieces of colored paper in a pinwheel configuration.
How to Raise Butterflies
- Kits can be purchased at toy stores or online through biological supply companies.
- The only draw-back to Painted Lady butterflies is that they are actually a little too easy to cultivate. They come in a plastic cup with food in the bottom and your child never needs to touch or care for them because the culture is self-contained.
- You still get to see the miracle of metamorphosis, but once they have spun some webbing around the inside of the plastic cup they become less active and less visible.
- Once they have formed a chrysalis you need to move them to a larger container and hang them from the ceiling of the container well before they emerge to be sure that their wings can hang downward and dry properly to enable them to fly.
- They can be fed sugar water for a few days before releasing them.
How to Raise Silkworms
- Eggs can be purchased from a biological supply company and articles below give some details about raising them that will be helpful.
- Silkworm larvae are only 1-2 millimeters long when they hatch from their eggs, barely visible.
- They must have a supply of young, tender mulberry leaves from the day they hatch or they can be fed a nutrient that can be purchased with the eggs.
- Over a period of approximately 6 weeks they do nothing but eat and grow, increasing their mass 10,000 times!
- Never fear, they still are only about 6 centimeters long and about a centimeter in diameter (about the size of an adult ring finger) when they begin the job of spinning their cocoon (an absolutely fascinating stage of their life cycle). This fairly quick, dramatic growth makes them ideal for study by children.
Raising silkworms can also lead into a great multicultural lesson.
- The earliest cultivation of silkworms began in China almost 5000 years ago. Older children (and their parents) can research the history of the silk trade in ancient times and learn about the opportunity silkworms present for families to become self-supporting in third world countries even today (sericulture).
- Silkworms only eat leaves from the mulberry tree. When the eggs were smuggled out of China centuries ago, mulberry tree seeds had to come with them!
- In an effort to find an insect that would produce silk but not be such a picky eater, an American naturalist brought an insect called the gypsy moth to America. It was accidentally released in Massachusetts in 1869 and the rest is another lesson we have learned about introducing exotic plants and animals to a non-native habitat.