Author: Roberta (Page 3 of 553)

Bug of the Week: Butterfly Census

With the increased moth activity mentioned last week, there also has been a surge in butterfly activity after the recent rains. In my neighborhood here near Phoenix,  we have seen representatives of almost every butterfly family.


Because it is missing its hind wing, this one is hard to identify, but I believe it is a pipevine swallowtail.

Whites and Sulphurs

Sulphurs are really easy to spot right now.

We have several fluttering in our yard at any one time, given away by their bright yellow wings.


Orange sulphurs aka alfalfa butterflies are particularly common. Some of the females are quite pale.  Right now often seen flitting across six lanes of traffic.

The tiny dainty sulphurs are so cute. This one is visiting a desert marigold.

Hairstreaks, Blues and Coppers

This tiny blue is also adorable. It posed while taking a snack from a milkweed flower.

Hairstreaks grab your attention by wriggling those antennae-like structures on their hind wings. The milkweed flowers are popular places to drink nectar.


Brushfooted Butterflies

We saw a few American snout butterflies, but not as many as in the past (previous post).


The queens are back.

They have laid eggs for the  next generation on the rush milkweed.



Last, but not least, the skippers with their uniquely folded wings.

The only family of butterflies not currently represented are the metalmarks.

What butterflies have you found in your neighborhood this month?

#STEAM #Kidlit What’s In Your Pocket?

To continue our STEAM children’s book series, let’s explore the childhood adventures of nine scientists in What’s in Your Pocket?: Collecting Nature’s Treasures by Heather L. Montgomery and illustrated by Maribel Lechuga.

When children collect and sort items they find in nature, they are learning important STEAM skills. In this book you will meet a boy who collected rocks and beetles, another who collected seeds and seed pods, and a girl who slept with earthworms under her pillow. Keep reading to find out which famous naturalists and scientists these curious children grew up to be.

They’ve created collections
They’ve made discoveries.
They’ve changed the world of science.

Maribel Lechuga’s vibrant illustrations perfectly capture each child’s wonder and surprise at the new things they stumble on.

The back matter gives a more complete biography of each of the people featured in the text, plus a charming note from the illustrator about how artists also appreciate and observe nature. In her author’s note, Heather Montgomery explains the need for collecting responsibly and gives some rules for respecting nature, respecting your family and community, and for protecting yourself when you gather from nature.

What’s in Your Pocket? is a delightful celebration of the collections made by youngsters who became famous scientists and naturalists. It is sure to inspire the next generation to make their own discoveries. Check out a copy today.

Related Activity Suggestions:

Visit Heather Montgomery’s website for resources for identification of trees, pond critters, and birds, as well as links to activity suggestions.

Activity 1. Make a leaf collection

Fall is a great time to make a leaf collection.  Use fallen leaves as an opportunity to study leaf form and function.


  1. Gather the leaves.
  2. Preserve the leaves.
  3. Display your collection.

Be sure to gather the leaves where you have permission to do so. A cloth bag can help hold your leaves while you are collecting.

There are many, many ways to preserve leaves. Personally, I press mine in between the pages of a few large books I keep for that purpose. This is something I learned from my grandmother. I still occasionally find a pressed leaf she tucked away in one of her books, a hidden treasure.

You may:

Be sure to include when and where you collected your leaves and any information you have about the identity of the plant. Keeping detailed records makes your collection more valuable as a scientific resource.

Use your preserved leaves to make and display a leaf collection. For example, see these third grade examples.

For a fun STEAM project, check out this lesson plan inspired by land artist Andy Goldsworthy.


Activity 2. Make a Seed Collection

In places with distinct seasons, plants often release their seeds in fall. To start, look for big seeds like acorns, maple keys, horse chestnuts, or walnuts. Here in Arizona we have mesquite pods.

If you can’t get outdoors, search for seeds inside common fruit like apples or pumpkins. Just be aware that learning how to dry and preserve seeds from fruit can be a bit of an art. There are books on saving seeds and many communities have seed libraries with information to help you get started.

A first collection can be stored in an egg carton (also useful for small rock collections). Bigger collections can be held in clean, dry spice jars or in labeled paper envelopes. As with the leaf collection, include when and where you collected your seeds and any information you have about the identity of the plant.





The diversity of seeds is amazing. To give you some idea of the different kinds, here at Growing with Science blog I posted a different seed photograph for 257 weeks in a row. First I posted the photographs — without identifying them — as mystery seeds. The following week I posted the identity with information about the plant (Seed of the Week). Many are listed by plant common name in the Seed of the Week archive page.

Activity 3. Make a list of things to collect

Brainstorm a list of other things that people collect.

  • Rocks
  • Seashells
  • Insects (particularly butterflies)
  • Pine cones
  • Bits of bark
  • Driftwood
  • Bones
  • Fossils
  • etc.

Discuss how these collections might be used, such as learning how to identify the items collected or figuring out where they can be found (geographical range).

Do you have a collection? What do you collect? How have collections inspired you?


Reading age ‏ : ‎ 4 – 8 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Charlesbridge (September 14, 2021)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1623541220
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1623541224

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. 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.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

Bug of the Week: Moth Extravaganza

Bug of the Week has been re-booted by some recent rains here in Arizona. I’ve been getting notifications of insects that I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s so exciting!

Erinnyis ello caterpillar

Photograph by Peg Lynck, used with permission.

Take for instance this caterpillar a friend found on what she called a pencil cactus, Euphorbia sp.

Photograph by Peg Lynck, used with permission

Here are two more.

See those tiny, stubby horns at the back of the abdomen? That means they are members of the hornworm or sphinx moth family. A little research shows they are ello sphinx (Erinnyis ello) caterpillars.

Ello sphinx caterpillars vary quite a bit in color. Some are green, or a mix of green and brownish-gray.

Public domain image from Wikimedia

The adult moths are known for their lovely burnt orange underwings.

Here’s another moth that has been spotted a lot this summer.

Photograph by Peg Lynck, used with permission.

Given the memorable common name of black witch moth (Ascalapha odorata),the species is found in the southern United States through Central America and into South America. Flying at night, these relatively large moths can resemble bats. During the day they rest on the walls of houses.

The caterpillars feed on various legumes, including Acacia sp., Senna sp. and mesquites.

White-lined sphinx moths are also active now. They can be active during the day as well as at night.

It is wonderful to watch nature rebound after last year’s extreme heat and drought.

What moths are you seeing right now?

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