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Insect Investigation

In this activity, students investigate insects in their own neighbourhood.

Students can make an insect-friendly device, known as an insect pooter, to help them temporarily house insects so that they can get a closer look at them. This device is a tool that will enable students to learn from their own experience and exploration.

Looking at the diversity of insects is a great way to understand the diversity of urban environments. With an insect pooter, it is possible to harmlessly catch small insects before they scurry away. Once the insects are in the container, students can use hand lenses to get a closer look.

An insect pooter is only a temporary home for the insects. Because they have no food and limited air, it is important to release the insects back into the environment that they were found after they have been examined up close.

Objectives

  • Create an insect catcher to observe insects up close.

  • Observe and record the biodiversity in local insects.

Materials

  • Per student:
    1 clear container (yogurt-type container) with lid
    2 straws
    A 2 x 2 cm piece of nylon stocking
    2 small pieces of plasticine

    Optional: magnifying glass

  • Per class:
    Hole puncher(s)
    Tape
    Scissors
    A cup or so of uncooked rice

Key Questions

  • How should you treat an insect that you collect?
  • What kind of insects are you interested in collecting?
  • Where should you release your caught insects?
  • How big of an insect can you catch with the insect pooter?
  • What do you expect to find? Did you find something you have never seen before?
  • Does this creature travel on top of the ground or burrow underneath? How does it move?
  • What does the creature move towards or away from? What might it be looking for?

What To Do

  1. Have students take the lid off the container.
  2. Then, have them punch one hole in the lid of the container and punch another hole on the side of the container. Then they can put the lid back on the container.
  3. Next, have students poke one straw into the top hole, with the longer part being outside the container. Next, they can poke the other straw into the side hole keeping the majority of the straw outside the container.
  4. Have them seal gaps between the holes and the straws with plasticine placed on the outside of the container.
  5. Next, have them take off the lid. Using tape, have them attach the piece of nylon to the straw that goes through the lid. The nylon should be taped over the end of the straw that will remain inside when the lid is back on the container.
  6. Next, have students trim the other (non-nylon) end of the straw down to about 8 cm from the bend.
  7. Students can now collect small insects by placing the longer, wider straw just above the insect and sucking gently from the shorter (“nylon-ended”) straw.
  8. Before you go outside to investigate insects, have students practice sucking up bugs using rice to act like the insects.

Extensions

  • What new details do you see with the magnifying lens?
  • Research your favourite insect and create a poster.
  • Compare your findings with a classmate.
  • Create a bar graph on on the types of insects your classmates found.

Other Resources

Nature Companion | Western Canadian Provinces Organism IDs

Insect ID| Bug Finder

Insect ID| Bug Guide

Natural Resources Canada| Forest Insects

Canadian Encyclopedia| Insects

iNaturalist Canada

National Geographic Kids | Videos | Insect Playlist