Spring is a great time to do some ‘bug hunting’ with children, but why do insects start to come out at this time of year? Here are some answers!
The changing of the seasons is always a source of wonder – especially to children. Encouraging children to take notice of seasonal changes is a great aid to their education, as it prompts them to ask questions about the world around them.
Looking out for insects can be great fun, and spring is the perfect time to get outdoors for a spot of ‘bug hunting’ with the kids!
One of the classic signs that spring has arrived is sighting the first bumblebee of the year. Different species of bees have different mechanisms for surviving the cold conditions of the winter. Honeybees will group together forming a ‘winter cluster’ with the queen bee at the centre. The worker bees eat the stored honey to give them energy, and will shiver to keep the queen warm.
The fact that the bees are eating and moving throughout the winter means that they are not hibernating. They remain active during the winter months, but all of their activity happens inside the hive. Keeping the queen bee alive is the main purpose of the colony, as she ensures the survival of future generations of bees.
Although the bees are still active in winter, they do not fly when it is too cold, so it is only when the temperature rises in spring that bees begin to come out of the hive. Bees feed on nectar, so during the winter months when there are few flowers in bloom they have to rely on their stores of honey for food. When the flowers start to bloom in spring, the bees start to forage for nectar and pollen again so that they can store up enough honey to survive through the following winter.
Another sign of spring is the emergence of ladybirds. These insects do hibernate during the winter, going into a dormant state. Ladybirds cluster together, sometimes in very large groups, in a sheltered spot such as under the bark of a tree. They do not eat or move while they are in hibernation. Their metabolic rate drops so that they can conserve their energy until the spring when they can come out to search for food.
Ladybirds may look friendly, with their pretty red and black wing casings, but they are actually carnivores, eating smaller insects such as aphids (greenfly).
Bug Hunting Equipment
All you need to go bug hunting is a keen pair of eyes. However, if you want to record your sightings some other equipment can be useful. A notebook and pencil will allow children to list the different types of insect that they have seen, and to draw sketches of them.
To get a more detailed view a bug viewer can be useful. These come in a range of shapes and sizes, but are all based on the same principle – a clear plastic container large enough to hold an insect with a magnifying lens in the lid. These are a great tool for studying insects, and allow children to add detail to their sketches.
Do remember, if using a bug viewer, that care should be taken not to harm the insects. They should be kept in the viewer for as short a time as possible, and should always be returned to where they were found. A camera can also be useful, as photographs can be taken of the insects, and of the places where they were found, which can be added to a scrap-book, poster or display board about your bug hunting adventures.