Favorite Insect Photographs of 2021

This is the time to look back at the highlights of the past year and look forward to upcoming adventures. In that vein, here are some of my favorite insect photographs from 2021.

Butterflies like this hairstreak are always such prima donnas.



Okay, so my favorites aren’t all photographs. These queen butterflies tell off the intruder by flapping their wings.


Roses always look even more lovely with a katydid decoration.


My neighbor was so excited when the praying mantis egg cases she had purchased began hatching that she called me over to watch. It was pretty amazing to see all the little nymphs. Later I found this one in our yard.


Yep, another video. In this one I caught a honey bee using her legs to pat pollen into her already pretty full pollen baskets. The plant is jojoba.


I took this photograph on January 14, 2021, which seems pretty early in the season for bees. Maybe the early bee gets the pollen?

Hope you enjoyed these. Thank you so much for following Growing with Science in 2021. I really appreciate everyone who took time to comment and for your support.

Happy New Year!



Two New Picture Books by Janet Halfmann

Life has been chaotic around here, but let’s finish out the year with a few of the notable picture books that were published this year.  First up are two delightful picture books by children’s book author Janet Halfmann (her website).

1. Yay for Big Brothers!

Yay for Big Brothers! by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Shennen Bersani came out November 2, 2021. It celebrates the importance of big brothers in human families and throughout the animal kingdom.


The books starts with a boy reading to a younger boy with a suggestion that animals can be Big Brothers, too.

In the text that follows, each Big Brother introduces himself (in first person), then talks about something he does with or teaches his younger sibling.

For example, this brother says,

“I’m a Big Brother dolphin”

then explains how he plays tug of war with his little sister. Each section ends with a question that brings the reader back to their human sibling.

A number of different animals are featured, each living in family groups like these African wild dogs. Young readers will learn more about the animals from clues in the illustrations as well as from the text. Janet has discovered some amazing ways siblings help each other.

The ending spread circles back to a celebration of human kids, with a diverse gathering of big brother and younger sibling pairs.

The back matter includes cool educational materials –called “For Creative Minds” — that can be downloaded and printed for non-commercial purposes. These include a glossary, a list of animal families that live in groups, a chart of how many babies each kind of family has (with questions to check understanding), and some fun facts. See a link to the publisher’s website below.

Yay for Big Brothers! would be an ideal way to introduce a big brother and his younger sibling. It would make a fabulous birthday or baby shower present. It would also be appropriate for a youngster who loves animals and wants to learn more about them. Enjoy a copy today!

Related Activities:

  • The “For Creative Minds” downloadable back matter (select the cover image to go to the PDF)
  • Janet’s website page (which has a synopsis, story of what inspired the book, etc).
  • Preschoolers would like to count the animals in each two-page spread. How many animals can they find? Older readers can do the math questions in “How Many Babies?”
  • Gather art supplies and have the children draw a picture of their family.
  • PBS has a lesson on Animal Families


Reading age ‏ : ‎ 4 – 8 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Arbordale Publishing (November 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1643518224
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1643518220

2. Caterpillar’s Surprise

The fiction picture book Caterpillar’s Surprise by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Emily Krueger came out December 2, 2021. It examines how friendships can change over time and has the most adorable illustrations.


Caterpillar wants to win the prize at the Masquerade Ball for best disguise and her friend Tadpole tries to help. But every time she thinks she has the perfect outfit, something changes.

As Janet explains on her website, she was inspired by the real life metamorphosis of butterflies. Later her editor suggested pairing the caterpillar with another creature who goes through metamorphosis and the friendship with Tadpole was born.

Caterpillar’s Surprise helps young readers empathize with friends who might struggle with changes in their appearance or who are experiencing other changes in their lives that are not under their control. The message of the importance of friendship regardless of circumstances shines through.

Related activities:

Explore life cycles and metamorphosis.

The Caterpillar Lab has many, many examples of moth life cycles. Click on the caterpillar guide tab, then any of the types that interest you. Or visit their YouTube video page.

The life cycle of the tiger swallowtail is featured in the book. Check out the life cycle of the giant swallowtail from my backyard.

The little caterpillar looks exactly like a bird dropping on a leaf.

After it has grown a bit, the caterpillar forms a chrysalis.

Inside the chrysalis many changes occur until one day,

a giant swallowtail butterfly emerges!

Ages 3-8
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Black Rose Writing (December 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1684338670
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1684338672


Disclosure: These books were provided by the publishers. 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.

STEM Friday #Kidlit Odd Beasts Board Book

For STEM Friday we have a board book for the youngest biologists,  Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Gareth Lucas

The book introduces babies and toddlers to eight weirdly-fascinating animals:  the pangolin (mammal with scales!), ocean sunfish, glass frog, anglerfish, long-horned orb-weaver spider, Eastern snake-necked turtle, bush baby, and giant jumping stick. Great selections!

Each two-page spread features a brightly-colored illustration of the animal, plus one short sentence that names it and points out a notable identifying characteristic.  For example, one of the animals “wears armor.” Can you guess which one?

The back matter includes photographs of each animal with a concise, but more-detailed description.

Odd Beasts is fun, sweet, and educational all rolled up into one. Perfect to prepare for a trip to a zoo or aquarium, then remember the adventure afterwards.

Related Activities:

    1. Visit Laura Gehl’s website for three coloring sheets (based on illustrations from the book) to download.
    2. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a page devoted to the ocean sunfish which includes a video
    3. Look for odd insects in the Insects Unlocked Flickr photostream (like this one)

Check out this tree pangolin at the Brookfield Zoo.


Reading age ‏ : ‎ 2 – 4 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Abrams Appleseed (November 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1419742221
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1419742224

Disclosure: This book was provided by Blue Slip Media. 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.

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