Wednesday, August 7, 2013


This blog is something I've been thinking about doing for a while. Our after-dinner outing tonight gave me a great way to get started...

If you are looking for a new place to hike with your budding entomologists, grab your bug nets and containers and head to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, a 29-acre gem of a park just east of downtown Saint Paul.

The restored prairie, ponds, and stream provide habitat for insects galore. During our hour-long guided hike, sponsored by Saint Paul Parks & Rec, we netted a ton of grasshoppers, a meadowhawk dragonfly, a damselfly, a long-horned katydid, a cabbage white butterfly, and plenty of seeds from the lovely tall grasses. A U of MN entomologist was along to help identify our finds. Some of the other insects we learned about tonight were soldier beetles, a tarantula hawk wasp (which looks a bit like a giant winged ant), and a male leafcutter bee. Did you know that male bees don't have stingers?

I would have enjoyed hearing the guide's talk about the culture and history of the area, but I was too busy looking in kids' nets, helping them put critters into containers, and watching them squeal in delight or jump back in surprise at every new insect they encountered. Between the children's joy and the sunshine, I'd say it was a pretty great way to spend an evening.

Tips for Bug Hunting With Kids:
  • The best thing about bugs... they are everywhere! As much as I love exploring new parks, you don't have to go to a park to find them. A sidewalk crack, a parking lot, a patch of grass, a garden - these are all places your kids can observe insects.
  • Take containers - small plastic containers with lids work well. You can put the container in one hand, the lid in the other, and gently scrape an insect off a plant. After close observation, let the critter go.
  • Mesh bug nets are great for catching flying insects. They can usually be found at dollar stores. I try to keep at least one in the car. 
  • Sweep nets are made with durable fabric and are designed to be swept through tall grass. Here are some instructions for making your own.
  • Prepare for the weather. Always have appropriate jackets and shoes. Take water and snacks. If kids aren't comfortable, everyone is miserable.
  • If you are squeamish or afraid of insects, try not to let your kids see it. 
  • Take some time to really look at an insect. Have your child describe it. If you don't know its name, make one up! Then try to identify it later. Help your child notice what the bug is doing, where it lives, and think about what it might eat or what might eat it.
  • And here's a song for you to help you learn and remember an insect's body parts (I know you've always been curious)...

Head, Thorax, Abdomen (sung to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes)
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen
Two antennae, six legs, and an exoskeleton
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen

Literature Links
  • Are You a Dragonfly? by Judy Allen. This is part of Kingfisher's Backyard Books series, a great series of books about backyard critters. Considers the characteristics of an insect and compares them to a child. Great illustrations!
  • Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy by Jacky Davis. I love the Ladybug Girl series, but this one in particular. A little girl dresses as a ladybug and goes on urban adventures to a neighborhood park, where she and other kids eventually form the Bug Squad.
  • Bumblebee at Apple Tree Lane, by Laura Gates Galvin. This is part of another series I love, the Smithsonian's Backyard Series. This one follows the life cycle of a bumblebee with language and illustrations that appeal to kids. We also love the one about chipmunks.


  1. Happy foray into the world of bugs and blogs, Dani!

  2. Welcome to the blogosphere. I expect some good stuff.

  3. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging.