Category Archives: Bug Zoo

We’re Giving Nature a Home

Do you have an outdoor space? Have you thought about the wildlife that calls your space home?

I have been browsing the RSPB website and reading about the campaign to Give Nature a Home. I was shocked to learn that out of the 6,000 British species assessed recently, more than one in 10 are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

But we can help. We can make sure our outdoor space is wildlife friendly and we can create homes for all sorts of birds and bugs. We can let the grass grow a little longer, we can plant wildflowers and hedges, we can make a pond or build a bug house, feed the birds or put up a nest box.

Over the last two years, as I have become more and more interested in wildlife and the world of minibeasts (thanks to my bug loving children) we have worked hard to make our garden a haven for birds and bugs alike. We have buried a bucket for beetles, we have dug out a small pond, we have made a nest box, and the plants we chose for the borders this year were picked to be butterfly and bee friendly.

We regularly enjoy watching some of the creatures that call our garden home and this year we are really seeing the benefit of our efforts.

We have a large apple tree at the bottom of the garden and hang several bird feeders in the tree and have a ground feeding tray for the larger birds. We regularly see Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds, Magpies and Robins and have occasional visits from Woodpeckers, Starlings, Jays and Goldfinches.

Every day we see butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers and long grass. The Speckled Wood butterflies and both Small and Large Whites are very common visitors and we have lots of caterpillars. Yesterday I saw a Blue Butterfly in the garden for the first time, I think a Holly Blue.

The pond is thriving. We have several tadpoles left but are also now enjoying watching the frogs.

The kids frequently go bug hunting and find worms, woodlice, beetles, spiders, centipedes and for the first time this year we have grasshoppers.

Garden WildlifeCan you give nature a home? The RSPB Website had some great ideas to help you get started and you’ll soon be enjoying the wildlife that moves in!

 

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Good Times with Good Friends

We had a lovely day today with our friends Caterpillar Tales.

This morning they were holding a fundraiser at their Toddler Group for The Lullaby Trust in memory of Matilda Mae, so we went to support them with that and then afterwards we went back to their house for lunch and play.

The kids played in the “talking bush”, on the climbing frame, found a huge ants nest in the sand pit, collected lots of ants!, played tennis, played lego, and lots more. In fact, they played really nicely together for hours. It was lovely!Caterpillar Tales GardenIn other news, when we got home we found that one of the silkworms has started to make its cocoon. I’m hoping the others start soon because until they do we have to keep feeding them, which disturbs the one already spinning. This silkworm rearing is much harder than I imagined!Silkworm

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Its a Bugs Life

It has been 7 weeks since I posted about our Bug Zoo so I thought it was about time I did an update.

Woodlice

The woodlice are thriving in their home. We started with around 10 but added several more over the following few days so I don’t know exactly how many we had initially. We’ve got several different types – there are around 35 different species of woodlouse native to the UK! We have large reddish-brown ones, pill bugs (the ones that roll up into a ball), and both large and small grey ones.

Last week I noticed one of the smaller grey ones had eggs so I’ve been watching for the tiny babies and I saw them for the first time yesterday!Woodlice BabiesSilkworms

The silkworm rearing kit arrived on the 27th April. We got around 15 eggs and were instructed to place them in a plastic tub and wait for them to hatch. They took around 2 weeks but we ended up with 6 silkworms from the eggs. The rest simply didn’t hatch (or hatched but didn’t make it – to be honest I’m not sure!)

They were so tiny when they first hatched you could hardly see them! They seemed to grow very slowly at first but I think this could have been temperature related because now the weather has improved and we’re getting sunshine quite regularly they are growing much quicker! 4 weeks in and they are now around 2cm long. We also only have 4 out of the 6 left, having lost 2 within the first 10 days.SilkwormsButterflies

The crysalyses that we found turned out to be Speckled Wood Butterflies. They all emerged and were releasedButterfliesThe worms and beetle we also had in the Big Zoo to start with have been released back into the garden.

Every day now Jasmine goes outside and collects bugs. She uses any tool available, from a net to a jam jar! She is getting to be an expert at catching flies, and is also quite taken by spiders at the moment! Here is a selection of other bugs we have found in garden in the last 7 weeks.Bugs in the gardenWe have also found weevils and ground beetles but I don’t have any photos of these.

It is amazing what you can find in your garden when you look closely!

 

 

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Bury a bucket for a beetle

Last year, at around this time, we found two Stag Beetles in the space of a week. One was in our garden and the other we found locally. I had never seen a Stag Beetle before so was interested to find out more about them and their habitat.Stag BeetlesOne thing I discovered was that due to habitat loss Stag Beetles are an endangered species and are already extinct in several parts of Europe.

I also discovered there was a very simple way of helping. By burying a bucket of woodchip in our back garden we could provide a home for Stag Beetle Larvae. The larvae feed on the decaying wood around them for at least three years before they begin to pupate into adults, so these log piles are essential for the species.

Well of course, we buried our bucket in the garden within a few days of finding all this out! It is so simple to do, why don’t you have a go?Beetle Bucket

 

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Pond Life

Our pond is in 🙂

Actually it has been in for a couple of weeks now and we have gradually been moving everything in to it. We moved a few of the daphnia, water boatmen and pond snails last week to see if the water was ready. They survived! So we moved the rest of the old storage box pond yesterday.

Today we went to a local Aquatics centre and got some pond plants and on the way home stopped off at our friends house and collected some tadpoles.

Now I really feel like our little pond is in!

Pond

Everyone is very happy and excited, but Jasmine is still a little disappointed because we don’t have any pond skaters yet!

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A Butterfly, Messy Play and Rainbows

We had a lovely surprise waiting for us when we came downstairs this morning. One of our butterflies had emerged! It was already flying around as well, so had obviously come out very early in the morning.

We then had an even bigger surprise when we saw its wings. It wasn’t any of the butterflies we were expecting it to be!

We were expecting to see either a Small or Large White butterfly, as these are what we had a lot of last year after growing broccoli in the garden. However the one that emerged this morning was a Speckled Wood butterfly.

We still have 5 more chrysalises to open, 2 of which we now think are Speckled Wood Butterflies. One seems to be changing colour this evening so hopefully tomorrow we’ll have another new butterfly to release!

After releasing the butterfly, the kids spent the rest of the morning playing in the garden (again!) and then after lunch we went to our Home Education Group, which was at Caterpillar Tales house again this week.

For the group, they had set up 2 Tuff Spots for messy play; one had Strawberry Angel Delight in and the other had water and cornflour. There was also the water table out for play. You can read their blog post about the afternoon here

The kids spent the whole afternoon playing, moving from one messy activity to the next! They did a lot of mixing, pouring, making puddings and cakes, and had a great water fight at the end of the afternoon! They all ended up soaked, and they loved it!

Finally, today was a special day for Jasmine. Today she started at Rainbows!

She loved it and can’t wait to go back next week. Well she actually wants to go back tomorrow, but she will have to wait until next week!

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Our Bug Zoo

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?

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