Jasmine and Thomas, most especially Jasmine, have always had a fascination with anything creepy and crawlie. They love worms, beetles, ladybirds, caterpillars and butterflies, grasshoppers, centipedes, spiders (Jasmine but not Thomas!), but Jasmine’s particular favourites are woodlice and ants. As soon as they start appearing in the spring, she starts collecting them. (This list is not exhaustive and if a creature has 6 or more legs, or lives in a dark damp place, my kids will love it!)
We have several bug catchers and in the warm weather Jasmine is very rarely seen without one! She will bug hunt wherever we are and once last year she tried to sneak some tiny toads home from our local ecology centre in her pocket!
So, today has been a glorious day here and we have spent all day in the garden. Cue the bug catchers coming out and bugs being hunted and collected!
We did well today. We found a beetle, woodlice, ants, worms and spiders.
The other thing both Jasmine and Thomas want to do when they find bugs, is to keep them as “pets”. Hmm, you may say. Hmm, I said at first. But then I found the book “Bug Zoo” by Nick Baker. It gives detailed, step by step instructions on how to set up your very own.. you guessed it,, bug zoo!
At various points last year we kept caterpillars/chrysalides/butterflies/moths, ants, worms and woodlice. We also built a beetle house in the garden after finding a Stag Beetle.
Today, our 2013 bug zoo has opened!
Our first occupants were woodlice.
The more I learn about woodlice, the more I can see why Jasmine loves them so much! Did you know they are actually crustaceans? They are close relatives of sea creatures like lobsters and crabs and prefer to live in damp places because they breathe through modified gills. Fascinating isn’t it!
Making a woodlouse house is actually very easy. We have a small plastic tank that we use, but a large jar will do just as well. You simply put a layer of soil or compost at the bottom of the tank and add “furniture” to make it look a little more interesting. We added some moss (to help keep the humidity up), some woodchip and a piece of bark for the woodlice to hide under, a potato for both food and as a cool damp place for them to live, and some carrot peeling for them to eat. Finally, tape a piece of black card to the outside of the tank to make a blackout curtain (we just cover one side), then add your woodlice and let them settle in to their new home!
Whilst we were searching for the woodlice we also found a beetle. Jasmine wanted to make him a home too so he is now living in our zoo! He is in a margarine tub with much the same things in it as the woodlice have. As we’ve never kept a beetle before I’m not sure how well this one will do in captivity and he may be released quite soon!
Jasmine also decided she wanted to keep worms today as well. We have made a wormery before and again it is quite easy. In one of our large bug catchers we placed a layer of wet sand, a layer of mud and a further layer of wet sand on top. Jasmine added several worms and we covered the top with a piece of kitchen paper held on by a rubber band.
The other thing we did today was a spot of pond dipping in our pond. Really, it is not a pond; we have an underbed storage crate that we turned into a makeshift pond last year when we got some tadpoles! But it is a thriving ecosystem now and the kids love seeing what they can find in it. Today we let them fish around with a small net and they caught some water boatmen, daphnia and a pond snail.
We will continue adding to our Bug Zoo throughout the spring and summer. I have ordered some silkworm eggs from insect-lore because Thomas asked if we could keep moths. We’ll probably collect some ants in the next day or 2 and move them onto our ant house (purchased here). We also have some butterfly and moth chrysalises that overwintered in our garden, so we are hoping they will emerge soon. Finally we are hoping to build a small, real pond in the garden so we can get some frogspawn and keep tadpoles again.
Keeping bugs is great fun and truly fascinating. Will you open a Bug Zoo?