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This week the hollyhocks will catch your eye here in Arizona. Tall, with large, striking red, pink, or white flowers, the hollyhocks are a favorite.


Certain insects and arachnids also seem to prefer hollyhocks.

Shiny metallic-green flies were resting on the leaves this morning.

long-legged fly

Aren’t they pretty?

long-legged fly

Any ideas what they were doing?

Called long-legged flies, the small green flies are predators waiting to catch other insects for food.


Tiny, pale green leafhoppers like this one are a meal for long-legged flies.

Another fly I found isn’t quite so welcome.

leafminer fly

leafminer fly

This tiny yellow and black fly is an adult leafminer. The fly will lay its eggs in the hollyhock leaves. The larvae will feed between the upper and lower surface of the leaf causing a winding light-colored tunnel. Fortunately the damage is relatively cosmetic (looks only).

leafminer damage

Other creatures already hard at work on the bottom leaves of some of the plants are spider mites.

spider mites

spider mites

The spider mites make fine webs like spider webs, hence the name. In our hollyhocks, the mites quickly build up, causing the leaves to turn yellow and die.

Hopefully, some predators will show up that eat spider mites. Here’s a sign that at least one predatory insect is about to make an appearance. Do you know what the stalk is?


I'll give you a hint:  it is on the underside of the leaf (I flipped it over).


Bubbles are great for studying chemistry and physics. In an early post in this blog I wrote about testing bubble solutions and doing experiments with household products that could be used to make bubbles. Recent events made us take a second look at bubble science.

Last weekend we went to a birthday party. The guest of honor had an electric bubble blower toy and a small bottle commercial bubble formula poured into a tray. The toy made a cloud of bubbles as it was passed from child to child, and soon the children had used up the bubble solution.

While one of the parents went inside to make more, one of the children added a bit of her soda to the container. There was enough bubble formula residue to blow bubbles, but something unusual happened. A few of the bubbles lingered long after the rest. They turned white and seemed stiffer than usual bubbles. We immediately wanted to know why. Do you have any ideas? I’ll give you a hint, the soda was regular, not diet.


Answer:  Most bubbles pop when their walls get too thin because of evaporation the water or because gravity pulls the water down. In our dry Arizona air, bubbles burst particularly quickly. Commercial bubble formulas typically contain a bit of glycerin, which is thought to slow evaporation and make the bubbles last longer. Other substances, such as sugar, fruit pectin or corn syrup can have the same effect. Sweetened soda typically contains corn syrup, so by adding soda to the solution she made longer lasting bubbles.

We were also interested in how else the bubbles had changed. We all decided that the bubbles had a nice soda smell. We tried to see if the color had changed, because the soda was dark brown. We couldn’t see any differences. Have you ever looked at the colors in a bubble closely? Think of ways to study the color of bubbles and leave a comment. We’ll have the results in a later post.

Looking for more? Try:
(Note: title and image affiliate links go to Amazon)

Pop! A Book About Bubbles (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Stage 1) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and illustrated by Margaret Miller

This book is for the younger set. The summary says ages 4-8, possibly younger.

Bubble-ology: Teacher's guide by Jacqueline Barber

This book says it is for grades 5 -9. I am usually thrilled with GEMS books, but this one seems a bit thin to me. It still has nice experiments, obviously well tested. Given all the information out there on bubbles, this one is useful because it pulls the experiments together in a logical way and does discuss the science behind them.

Experiments with Bubbles (Getting Started in Science) by Robert Gardner

Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun! (Williamson Kids Can!) by Anita Brandolini, Ph.D. and illustrated by Michael P. Kline

How to Make Monstrous, Huge, Unbelievably Big Bubbles (Klutz) by David Stein and The editors of Klutz

If you are looking for some books that aren’t the usual fare, why not try some science/nature themed poetry? Here are a few that deserve to be a part of every home library.

If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky and Ted Rand (Illustrator)

A friend of mine recently showed me this book, written all in haiku. Although that might sound about as exciting as bread molding, this is an incredible book. The vocabulary is stimulating, and the illustrations are superb. I would say this book would be acceptable as a read aloud for younger children and definitely would be a book your children would return to again and again. Although the cat is the title, most of the poems involve creatures from nature.

insectlopedia by Douglas Florian

My son’s first grade teacher gave a copy of this book to my son and he still cherishes it. I love the fact it is accurate and insightful, as well as creatively fun. And yes, the title is supposed to be in lower case.

mammalabilia by Douglas Florian

Douglas Florian actually has a whole series of poetry books, so if your child isn’t interested in insects, try some of the others.

in the swim by Douglas Florian

The review of this book says: “Even the most educated marine biologist could learn something from this whimsical, beautifully illustrated collection of 21 poems about sea life.”

Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas

Although not a science book, per se, if you like poems for two voices, this is another fun one.

Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out by Ralph Fletcher

This book is a great resource for older children (and even adults) who are interested in writing poetry. If every school used this book to teach poetry, I am positive that poetry would be everyone’s favorite subject.

Finally, if you want to learn more about nature/science poetry, try The Miss Rumphius Effect website.

Hope you enjoy some poetry today!