Caterpillars or Other Insects
Another way to explore your environment is to focus on specific
organisms. Caterpillars and other insects are interesting,
plentiful, and quite varied. With some care, you can raise
some caterpillars to adults and learn about their life histories.
You might also make observations about which types of plants
particular caterpillars like the best. Some will only be
found on a specific plant while others are not so picky.
You might also make some observations about the natural
enemies of caterpillars. Do you see evidence of predators
eating them or of parasitoids?
you are collecting live organisms you need to remember safety
some insects might sting and some plants might cause
allergic reactions so you need to be careful of what you
touch! Also remember to be respectful of the organisms you
are studying. Try to make your observations right there
on the site or take photographs to document what you see.
If you do collect animals or plants, always put them back
in the same place when you have finished making your observations!
Most important, if you do collect caterpillars or other
insects, you will need to take care of them while you keep
them, so you will need to collect food for them to eat.
Think of the caterpillars and insects as temporary pets.
tools we used for collecting caterpillars are very simple:
Each caterpillar you collect should go in a separate bag
along with some leaves from the plant it was eating. Watch
carefully to make sure you know what plant it was eating.
Remember to include a data label in the bag and to blow
a little air in the baggie before you close it!
labels: A small piece of paper telling where you found
the caterpillar, what kind of plant it was on, the date
and observations about its appearance and behavior.
small paintbrush: You can gently brush the caterpillar
to see how it responds to an "enemy." It might thrash
about, try to drop off the leaf or bite the paintbrush.
hand lens or magnifier is also useful caterpillar
mouths are very tiny and can be difficult to observe!
or pencil to write on the label and in your notebook.
can rear your caterpillars until they pupate and turn into
adult butterflies or moths right in the bag. You will need
to hang it up somewhere where it will not get crushed. You
will need to check each bag every day and provide fresh
leaves for the hungry caterpillars as needed. You will also
need to shake out the bag and get rid of the frass when
the bag looks dirty. When the caterpillar finally pupates,
try not to disturb it. When the adult emerges, be sure to
take it back where you captured the caterpillar and let
might want to make a display of your photographs to show
what you have learned about the natural history of these
organisms. You might also include a chart with the date
you have collected about the feeding habits of the caterpillars,
their natural enemies, and some of their behaviors. There
are also some online projects you can participate in that
will direct you to collect information about specific species
such as the Monarch butterflies.