Keeping a pet bug
Bugs are little animals
When I was writing the book, Busy with Bugs, I had a surprising thought: Bugs are little animals. And getting to know them helps us understand the entire Animal Kingdom. Bugs live in every kind of habitat: mountains, deserts, rainforests, caves, rivers, oceans, fields, backyards – and our houses. Some bugs are predators; some are prey. Some are diurnal (active during the day); some are nocturnal (active at night). Some bugs hibernate; some migrate. Bugs fly, hop, crawl, and run. They eat, drink, rest, hide, communicate, build homes, raise young, attack, fight, die. They are little animals.
And since bugs are animals, we must treat them with respect and care. If you’re interested in catching and keeping live bugs, you’ll need to handle them gently and take care of them responsibly. By learning to love and protect all living things on our planet, you’ll become a better caretaker of our Earth.
Keeping bugs alive
Whether you catch a bug with a bug trap (see “My 5 favorite bug traps”) or find a bug when you’re exploring, use a paintbrush to push the bug into your collecting jar. If you find bugs under a rock or rotting log, gently replace the rock or log in its original position after you collect your critters.
Make sure your collecting jar has openings to let in fresh air. And put a damp, crumpled paper towel in the jar. That will keep bugs from losing moisture and give them a place to hide. These two simple steps will keep your bug alive. You can learn so much more from a living bug than from a dead one.
Taking care of a pet bug
How many children put a bug in a jar and give it grass to eat? But that doesn’t work, because each kind of bug has its own diet. It would be like putting you in a room and giving you grass to eat. You’d probably say, “Don’t they know that I like french fries?”
You can’t feed a bug until you know its name. You can start by counting its legs. All insects have six legs – and two antennae and three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen). Other creepy crawlies, which I call bugs, may have eight legs (like spiders or daddy long-legs, which are not spiders) or fourteen legs (like a pill bug) or two pairs of legs on each body segment (like a millipede). Your job is to observe your bug, describe it carefully, then look online or in an insect field guide until you can identify it. You may need some help from an adult.
Once you know your bug’s name, you can find out more about it. Google “What do ladybugs eat?’ or “How can you keep a cricket for a pet?” Sometimes you can take a shortcut if you find a bug on a plant and see evidence that the bug has been eating that very plant. A feeding caterpillar will leave big holes in the leaves of a plant and also frass (caterpillar poop). Then you know exactly what to feed that caterpillar.
I worked very hard to make a Keeping-Bugs Chart for my book. It tells exactly what kind of food and shelter is right for different kinds of pet bugs. It also tells how to provide water with a damp paper towel, a mist or spray, or a certain diet. It even tells which bugs can be kept together in a terrarium. Working on the chart made me understand that you can’t keep a bug as a pet unless you know exactly what it needs.
But … once you’ve done your research and set up your bug’s home, it’s not difficult to care for a pet bug. And it can be extremely interesting. Suppose you’re keeping several crickets in a terrarium. You might observe them eating, chirping, kicking, head-butting, wrestling, establishing territories, or laying eggs. Be sure to keep notes and take photos. It might take care of your science project next year!
My 5 favorite bug traps
Have you ever spread a picnic on the ground and then wondered how so many bugs could suddenly find you? Our world is filled with insects and bugs. More than a million species of insects have been described and classified. Scientists believe there are millions more. If you spent your entire life counting bugs on Earth, you wouldn’t have time to finish. You would have to count a billion billion bugs!
But if there are that many bugs around us, why are they so hard to find when you want one? Suppose you're all ready to go bug hunting. You have a bug container and a magnifying lens and maybe even a field guide to insects. But you can’t find any interesting bugs. Well, you need a bug trap.
In my book, Busy with Bugs, there are directions for making ten different bug traps. Sometimes they work – and sometimes they don’t. (It depends on where you live and the time of year and when and where you place the bug trap.) But m y five favorite bug traps are practically guaranteed to catch bugs.
Make a Beat Sheet by putting a white cloth under a tree or shrub. Beat or shake the branches. Did any bugs fall on the sheet? Scoop them up into your collecting jar. This is a good way to find cicadas, ladybugs, or beetles.
Note: A good way to collect bugs without harming them (or being harmed) is with a paintbrush. Use the brush to gently push bugs into your bug container.
Creep-Under Bug Trap
Spread a thick mat of grass clippings in a shady place. Lay a large plastic garbage bag or a piece of lumber on top of the grass. (If you use a garbage bag, secure it with rocks at each corner.) After a few days, lift the trap carefully and see who moved in.
Fly-Right-In Bug Trap
To catch flying insects, put bits of ripe fruit in a wide-mouth jar. Or at night, put a glow stick in a jar to catch insects that are attracted to light. Place a funnel in the jar opening with the small end of the funnel pointing down. The wide mouth of the funnel balances on the rim of the jar, so that when bugs fly into the jar through the funnel, they won’t be able to get out again.
Note: Ripe banana attracts fruit flies.
This couldn’t be simpler, but it works for me almost every time. Put a clay flowerpot on its side in a deeply shaded area where small plants are growing. Check the flowerpot every day to see if a daddy longlegs is resting in it. You may also find snails, slugs, millipedes, or pillbugs.
On a warm summer night, if you provide a light, the night will provide bugs. You can easily observe moths, beetles, and many kinds of flying insects with a Shining Sheet. Hang a white sheet over a railing or between two trees. Set up a flashlight behind it. Then sit quietly in front of the sheet and watch for visitors.
I don’t try to catch moths (or butterflies), but I love to see them. If you do this experiment every few days during the summer, you’ll see the most amazing variety of flying insects – new ones each week.
Have fun catching bugs!
By guest blogger, Alex Robbins, SafetyToday.org
There are few things more important than choosing the right daycare facility for your child. Whether you are picking a learning environment for your 3-year-old or 9-year-old, the tools for success remain the same. Here are eight must-haves that you should find in your child’s potential daycare center.
Age-appropriate toys and activities
A daycare center is almost useless if your child can’t grow using age appropriate toys and organized activities. If you visit a potential daycare center, but find little information about ongoing learning experiences, themed days, and toys geared toward different age groups, you may want to continue looking. A center with staff members that truly care about your child will have a variety of activities, toys, and methods to help him or her grow. Learn more about the importance of daily routines and age appropriate activities through PBS.
This must-have mostly revolves around safety equipment. Is the daycare center properly secure against intruders? Are there baby gates to keep younger children separated from older children? What kind of equipment is available for toddlers? You should see baby proofed doors, appliances, gates, outlets, and more on your first visit. Even if you don’t have a toddler, you should pay close attention to how much your potential daycare values safety.
Educated and qualified staff
You’ll have a good idea of the education and qualification level of staff members on your first visit to a potential daycare center. You should be introduced to the members who will be working directly with your child. As you meet with them, you should feel welcome to ask any questions you’d like about their prior experience. If you don’t feel comfortable or your questions aren’t being answered, you might want to look elsewhere. The staff members of a daycare center are the most important cog in the wheel. They make everything run smoothly.
Any professional daycare center should have an easily accessible handbook filled with safety regulations that will help keep your child (and other children) safe from harm. These regulations should include information about vaccinations, required at-home periods of rest after contagious illnesses, and other restrictions. If your potential day care center doesn’t have these rules on hand, they likely don’t enforce them. This could become a serious problem in the future.
Your child should only be eating healthy food at his or her daycare center. This means you should be introduced to the kitchen, the meal plans, and the daily functions involved in preparing food for your child. Transparency in the kitchen is essential to providing a professional daycare atmosphere. After all, you want to know what your child is ingesting.
Clean and safe facilities
It goes without saying that your child should only attend a daycare that is both clean and safe. This could be a matter of location, safety equipment, or general cleanliness. If, when touring the facility, you notice any serious problems with sanitation, you should probably walk away. Not sure what to look for? Parents.com recently published an article outlining what to seek in a professional daycare center.
A trial period
Most great day care centers offer a trial period option for your child, allowing him or her to gain access to the facility for a few days. Based on the reaction of your child, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not the daycare center is right for your family.
The final must-have for your potential daycare center? Trust. If you don’t trust the staff members or if you feel as though something is being hidden from you, relaxing during the day will be nearly impossible.
Quick tip for kids: Stranger danger
It can be a little scary being in a new place surrounded by unfamiliar faces. Daycare is a lot of fun and you’ll make so many new friends to play with, but don’t forget to be cautious of strangers. If you ever come across someone you don’t know or if someone unfamiliar approaches you during outside playtime, let your teacher know immediately.
Now let’s get back to the parents. Still struggling? Care.com offers some useful questions to ask when touring a day care center for your child.
If you search for these must-haves and take your time, you’ll find a quality daycare center that your child will love for years to come.
How to make a sun cooker
Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk?” Did you ever think of trying it? Many people have experimented with finding ways to cook with heat from the sun. The key to success is to build a sun cooker that reflects the rays of the sun and concentrates heat on the food that needs to be cooked.
Building a sun cooker is a cool experiment. But for the three billion people in the world who have to cook their meals over an open fire or with a stove that pollutes the air, a sun cooker can improve their lives, their health, and the air they breathe.
You can make a bowl into an efficient sun cooker. Find a bowl with as small a base as possible. If you have an aluminum bowl, polish the inside of the bowl until is is smooth and shiny. That will make a bright surface that will reflect the sun rays. If your bowl is not aluminum, you can line it with aluminum foil. Make sure the dull side of the foil is against the inside of the bowl. Your job is to make the foil-covered bowl as smooth and shiny as possible. Smooth the foil with the back of a large spoon, or roll a rubber ball over the foil to remove every single wrinkle. Try to make the bowl as bright as a mirror.
To cook a small potato, first place a little suction hook inside the bowl at the bottom. (Straighten the hook with pliers to form a spike.) If you’re working with an aluminum bowl, simply attach the suction hook directly to the bottom of the bowl. But if you have a foil-covered bowl, open a small slit in the foil, so that you can attach the suction hook to the surface of the bowl. Push the potato onto the spike.
Take the sun cooker outside at noontime when the sun is hottest, and point it directly at the sun. As the sun moves lower in the sky, change the position of the bowl so that the sun shines directly into it. Check the potato with a fork. When the fork slips easily into the potato, it is done! How long did it take?
There are many experiments you can do with a sun cooker. Try designing your own cooker. Try placing it in different locations. Does it work better when placed in the grass or on the sidewalk? Try cooking different foods. Make up a sun recipe.
From A Kid's Summer EcoJournal by Toni Albert.
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”