Bug of the Week

The kids in my insect science class were so surprised to find that mealworms turned into beetles.

mealworm-larva-332Yes, this mealworm turns into:

adult-mealworm-beetle-0264a black beetle.

 

okay-adult-mealworm-beetle-0247This was a fun and easy lesson about metamorphosis, using some wheat bran and potatoes from the grocery store and a few mealworms from a pet shop.

See details on how to raise mealworms from our previous lesson on beetles.

For our final week in this series we have science activities and resources for learning more about bees, ants, and wasps, Order Hymenoptera.

1. What are the characteristics of ants, bees, and wasps?

One characteristic feature of the members of the order Hymenoptera is the presence of two pairs of membranous wings that are different in size. The forewings are larger than the hindwings.

mystery-insect-wing-200Exceptions are the worker ants, which lack wings. The male and queen ants do have wings that fit this pattern.

Another feature of the order is that some of the females have an egg-laying tube, or ovipositor, that has been modified into a stinger. Some ants, bees, and wasps use stingers to defend themselves and their nestmates.

molestaCA1-S-alex-wild-public-domainPublic domain photograph by Alex Wild

Ants can often be distinguished from other insects by the fact their antennae have a bend in the middle, although some bees and wasps also have this characteristic.

2. What are the differences between bees and wasps?

Because many bees and wasps exhibit bright warning coloration in the form of contrasting light and dark colors (often yellow and black), people sometimes have difficulty telling them apart.

bee-wasp-infographicThe main difference between the two is that bee larvae are vegetarians and wasp larvae are not. The other physical differences often relate to those differences in diet.

Activity:  Dissect a flower to discover where pollen and nectar are formed.

Commercially available lilies are excellent for this type of dissection. Pollen comes from the anthers and nectar is produced by the nectaries.

Mature_flower_diagram.svg(“Mature flower diagram” by Mariana Ruiz LadyofHats. Public Domain image at Wikimedia Commons.)

3. Ant, bee and wasp life cycles

Insects in the order Hymenoptera undergo complete metamorphosis, with egg, larva, pupa and adult stages.

ant-life-cycleAnt pupae are unusual because some species form silken sacs, called cocoons, and other form bare pupae.

The Ask-a Biologist website has some coloring pages that show life cycles.

Links to .pdf files to download:

4. Ant anatomy

Ants and wasps are also unusual because although they look like they have the standard three body parts of most insects (head, thorax, and abdomen), the middle section actually contains some parts of the true abdomen. For that reason the parts are often given special names unique to the Hymenoptera.

ant-drawing-activity

Ask-a-biologist also has a detailed discussion of ant anatomy, although it uses slightly different terminology.

as well as ant anatomy coloring sheets

We also have an activity using marshmallows and toothpicks to make an ant model.

 

Additional Resources and Books:

ant-books-buttonSee our growing list of children's books about ants at Science Books for Kids.

honey-bee-books-coverWe also have an extensive list of children's books about honey bees.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

See the other lessons in this series:

Insect Science Investigations

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This week we have science activities and resources for learning more about butterflies and moths, Order Lepidoptera.

  1. What are butterflies and moths?

Members of the Order Lepidoptera have four scale-covered wings as adults. They go through complete metamorphosis and the larval stage is commonly called a caterpillar. One unique trait of the Lepidoptera is that an adult butterfly's or moth's mouthparts, called a proboscis, is curled up under the head when not in use. The proboscis straightens out like a party favor blower when the butterfly or moth feeds.

The larval stages of butterflies and moths feed on plants (with a few rare exceptions). The adults feed on various liquids or don't feed at all. Many visit flowers for nectar.

Activity:  Demonstrate how the butterfly moth works with a party blower.

butterfly-mouth

2. What are the differences between butterflies and moths?

buckeye-butterfly-dbg-4Buckeye butterfly

hickory-tussock-moth-19Hickory Tussock Moth

butterfly-vs-moth-infographic2

See our Growing with Science website for a longer discussion of the differences between butterflies and moths.

Activity:  Gather illustrations of common butterflies and moths and have the children sort them into groups using what they have learned.

Related:

Butterfly identification for beginners

3. Butterfly and moth life cycles

Check our Growing with Science website for a detailed discussion of butterfly and moth life cycles.


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Activity:  Draw the life cycle of a butterfly and label all four life stages.

Butterflies have four life stages: egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), adult.

Ask-A-Biologist has a monarch butterfly life cycle coloring page .pdf to download or print.

Activity: Draw the life cycle of a moth and label all four life stages.

Moths also have four life stages, but instead of a chrysalis the pupa is either bare, or develops within a wrapping of silk called a cocoon.

Ask-a-Biologist has a Manduca moth life cycle coloring page .pdf to download or print. Note:  Manduca moths do not form a cocoon.

To see a moth that does form a cocoon, try our Silkworm Moth Life Cycle post.

4. Butterfly and Moth Anatomy

The Growing with Science website also has a discussion of adult butterfly and caterpillar anatomy.

Activity:  Caterpillar anatomy

caterpillar-anatomy

Allow the children to observe a live caterpillar if available, or obtain some realistic plastic toy caterpillars if not. Explain that insect have six legs and caterpillars are not an exception, although it may look like they have more. The caterpillar has six true legs on its thorax (section right behind the head), but has additional fleshy appendages on the abdomen called prolegs. Those are not truly legs and are mostly used for gripping the plant.

5. Go on a caterpillar hunt outdoors

Young children benefit from experience being outdoors and seeing caterpillars in their natural habitat. If you are unsure where to look, find an experienced guide and/or scout the area in advance.

Six Tips for a Successful Caterpillar Hunt

Children's Books and Resources about Butterflies and Moths

butterfly-gardening-with-childrenCheck out our Butterfly Gardening with Children Week landing page for a list of links to related posts and activities.

moth-and-butterfly-books-for-children-list

At Science Books for Kids we have a growing list of children's books about moths and butterflies organized by reading level.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

See the other lessons in this series:

Insect Science Investigations