Kids are fascinated with bugs. Encourage this fascination by teaching them about bugs in the back garden. Did you know that kids can learn just as much from watching these interesting creatures (like caterpillars or ladybirds) at home or in the classroom as they would from a trip to the local nature museum or a book?
Back gardens are home to much more than just plants. They host a variety of bugs too. In fact numerous bugs can be found in the back garden, from caterpillars, moths, and butterflies to ladybirds, hoverflies, and bees. One of the best ways to introduce kids to bugs in the back garden is by creating fun games and activities for them. Most kids love to touch or pick up bugs. Arm them with a jar or other suitable container and a magnifying glass. Then send them out in the garden on a bug hunt. Have them look under rocks, on the leaves of plants, and in the dirt. Allow the kids to carefully collect a few bugs and place them in the jar for later identification.
They can even add some dirt, leaves and twigs to the jar as well. Cover the top and be sure to provide air holes. Allow the kids to observe their newfound treasures, taking notes about them. Perhaps they could even draw their bugs. A magnifying glass will give the kids a chance to see the bugs up close, examining their eyes, their legs, etc. Take them on a trip to the library and let the kids use bug resource books to learn more about their captives. Ask questions about their bugs. Do you think they are good bugs or bad ones? Can you identify your bugs? Be sure, however, to have the kids release their bugs back into the garden afterward.
Good Bug, Bad Bug
Discuss various types of bugs in the back garden. Ask them to name and describe their favourites and why. For example, bumblebees are big, fat and fuzzy-looking. They’re black and yellow. Bumblebees are related to honeybees and both are important for pollination. Ladybirds can be orange or red with numerous black spots. They eat bad bugs in the garden, such as aphids. Hoverflies also eat bad bugs. These bugs are interesting because they hover in the air like hummingbirds (or helicopters) and sound like bees. Butterflies and their larvae (caterpillars) can be very colourful. Caterpillars feed on the leaves of plants and are sometimes considered pests. However, once they turn into butterflies, these bugs will help pollinate plants and are good to have in the back garden.
Don’t forget to talk about bad bugs in the back garden. Weevils, for instance, can spell out trouble in the garden. They lay eggs in the garden, and their larvae feed on garden plants. Aphids are tiny, usually green, bugs that form clusters on plants. They destroy garden plants by sucking out their sap. Bugs, like the cockchafer beetles, can be extremely destructive in the garden. Their larvae live in the soil, feeding on plant roots. Adults feed on flowers and foliage.
Earwigs can be both bad and good. For instance, they attack the buds and flowers of many garden plants but also eat bad bugs, like aphids. Do you know how they got their name? It is said they used to crawl into the ears of sleeping people in straw beds, of which they’re attracted.
Fun Bug Activity
Many bugs are colourful, either to attract mates or for camouflage against predators. Allow kids to explore these interesting colours by creating their own whimsical bug. Use coloured construction paper and let them cut or tear pieces to form the various parts of their bug. This is actually an ideal activity for going over the parts of an insect. Talk about their legs, head, wings, feelers, eyes, etc. Once they have arranged their bug parts, allow them to glue the pieces onto a large piece of black paper. This helps the colourful bug stand out. The kids can also label the parts of their bug using pieces of white construction paper. Be sure to hang up their finished bug.
Fun Bug Facts
- All bugs have six legs.
- There are more than 500 million different bugs covering the globe.
- As bugs grow, they shed (molt) their outer skeleton. These ‘sheddings’ are called cast skins and can be found on plants or trees in and around the garden.