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There's always something going on on our rush milkweed plants.

We've been watching a chrysalis that's attached to one of the stems. Can you guess what kind of butterfly it belongs to?

This morning it had darkened up and the shape had changed.

Sure enough, a wrinkly butterfly emerged.


Can you recognize it now?

On a nearby plant, this female queen butterfly laid eggs for the next generation.

We'll have more to watch next week.


What would you do if you saw a cluster of these insects on your tree?

They do look a bit odd, like creatures from a Dr. Seuss book with yellow and black striped pajamas .

No worries, though. They are bark lice nymphs, Cerastipsocus venosus (family Psocidae) and they are actually quite cool

The nymphs have plump abdomens, rounded heads and long antennae. The adults look similar, but have wings which fold over their backs. BugGuide has photographs of the adults.

Bark lice are found on the bark of trees, but the name is unfortunate because they aren't really like the parasitic lice that animals get.

Instead bark lice feed on lichens, debris, etc. found on the outside of trees. A better name would be "bark groomers".

They also go by the common name "tree cattle" because they group together in tiny "herds". When disturbed, they run together, looking like a herd of cattle stampeding.

This video shows their swirling movement while trying to escape a potential predator (stick).

Doesn't it look like a flock of migrating birds moving together in the air, turning this way and that?

 We found these tree cattle in western New York State, but you might see them throughout North America's Eastern Deciduous Forest.

So, now that you know what they are and a little bit about them, what would you do if you saw these benign insects?


To finish up our celebration of National Moth Week, let's take a look at the fun hands-on activity book for kids, Butterfly Papercrafts: 21 Indoor Projects for Outdoor Learning by Sal Levinson and illustrated by Danielle Levinson.

This book introduces children to both art and science in an integrated way. Topics covered include butterfly life cycles, butterfly gardening, puddling behavior, migration, camouflage and more. To explore these topics, children make finger puppets, flip books, paper airplanes, and even a butterfly-shaped kite.

The layout consists of a series of two-page spreads with instructions and information about a given butterfly-related topic on the left page and the reproducible template for the craft to make on the right hand page. Also included are black and white photographs of completed projects or activity suggestions. What a wonderful way to learn about butterflies and moths!

Although the emphasis in this book is on butterflies, many of the details are the same for both and there is a section about comparing butterflies and moths on pages 28 and 29, including a template for a double-sided moth. Although the book has other fun suggestions for how to use the moth template, it also could be folded and then taped or glued to a large craft stick to make a realistic moth puppet (Children with emerging fine motor skills will need assistance with cutting it out).

By the way, the moth isn't identified in the text, but it looks like a Polyphemus moth (see below). Kids can use their imaginations to design their own moth colors, too.

(Public domain image of a Polyphemus moth from Wikimedia)

Sal Levinson is a trained entomologist and it shows. The information in the book is detailed and accurate. Sal's daughter Danielle has a degree in design and she used her talents to create some fabulous paper crafts. Like the example of the moth above, she based her designs on real insects, not cartoons.

Butterfly Papercrafts would be a great resource to have on hand for STEAM festivals, units on insects, to accompany a trip to a butterfly house, or for a rainy day craft project at home. A must have for children who love butterflies.

Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 7, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1508695377
ISBN-13: 978-1508695370

For more ideas about things to do with the patterns/templates in the book, try our butterflies Pinterest page.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the author for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.