Let's Talk About Insects

Teacher's Guide

Activities for Your Classroom

Some activites include worksheets in Adobe PDF format. Click here to download the free Adobe Acrobat reader if you do not already have it installed on your computer.

Insect Rainbow

What colors are insects? Ask the students to find an insect that is each of the colors on the Insect Rainbow Color Chart (PDF).


Long, Longer, and Longest

Print out the Long, Longer, and Longest Worksheet (PDF) and give each student a copy.

Then have a collection of several insects for them to measure. The students can use the chart keep track of their measurements.


Build a Model Insect

Ask each student to build a model two or three dimensional insect using construction paper, cardboard, oasis, styrofoam, pieces of plastic and pipestem cleaners. Ask that they mark or label the body parts. They can create a new kind of insect or ask that they all make insects they are familiar with like a firefly, cicada, lady bug or praying mantis. This is an excellent activity to stimulate a student's creativity.


Who Lives Here

Take a pillow case, sheet or large piece of white paper. Place it under a plant or a tree. Shake it to see what insects fall out. Examine the insects and identify them. Some might fly away, but others will stay. How many different kinds of insects were found? Now try another plant and see if the insects are the same or different.


Take a Bug Census

Ask the students to find out what kind of bugs are in a certain spot. Place a container (like a plastic margarine tub) in the ground with a bait. The top of the container should be level with the ground. For bait you can use popcorn, fruit, grains, raw meat, kitchen waste or candy. Place a stone across the top, but do not cover it completely. The next day, lift out the container and see what insects you have caught in the container. The experiment can be repeated for several days to see if different insects appear. Put the container in different spots in the garden, like under a bench or in the lawn, to see if you get different insects in different places.


Make an Insect Collection

Begin by taking a walk in the school yard and look for insects. See how many different ones you can find.


Caterpillar Watch

Make a hatching habitat for a caterpillar so the students can watch metamorphosis.

  • To begin make a habitat box. Cut the box's top and bottom off. Cut a flap in the side of the box that is big enough for a hand and supplies to go through. Then poke holes in the top of the box for air holes.
  • Place a damp paper towel in the bottom of the box – A humid environment makes it easier for caterpillars to breathe.
  • Place leaves in the bottom of the box. Choose leaves from the host plant you saw the caterpillars on. Also prop some sticks up against the box so the caterpillar can crawl up it when it is ready to pupate.
  • Now put the caterpillar in its new home and cover both open sides of the hatching habitat with clear plastic wrap and tape it onto the box.

    Some Helpful Hints

    Temperature is important. Keep the box out of direct sunlight but in a warm place that is about the same as the average outdoor temperature.

    Add leaves for food as they are needed and put a clean, damp paper towel in the bottom of the box everyday.

    Soon after the butterfly has hatched from its chrysalis and its wings have dried, take it outside and release it back to nature.

    Students can record all of the caterpillar's behaviors and physical changes that they have seen on the Caterpillar Watch Worksheet (PDF).

    • What was the length of the caterpillar?
    • How many times did the caterpillar shed its skin and grow new?
    • How long was it just before it pupated?
    • When did it change into a pupa?
    • How many days did the pupa stage last?
    • When did the adult butterfly emerge from its chrysalis?
    • Where and when did you release the butterfly?
    • Other important things I observed.


Bug Hunt

Ask students to look in different parts of their home to see if they can find different kinds of bugs. Try the bathroom, kitchen, garage, basement, attic, and don't forget under beds! If they find something, catch it! Have them bring the bugs to school to identify. They can record their findings on the Bug Hunt Worksheet (PDF).


Night Time Insects

There are many insects that like to come out at night when it's dark. These insects are called nocturnal. Insects rarely seen during the day can be observed at night by setting up a simple light trap.

  1. Hang a white sheet under an outdoor light or hang the sheet from the branches of a tree.
  2. Turn on the porch light or shine a bright light on the sheet hanging from the tree.
  3. Soon, because of insects being attracted to the light, you will see many insects clinging to the sheet.
  4. Look at them up close and record what you find and how many different insects come to visit your light trap.


Insects Underwater

There is a lot of insect activity going on under water in ponds, lakes, and streams. Seeing it can be tough unless you have an underwater periscope. They are easy to make and give students a way to peek into the underwater world of insects.

  1. Get a large, empty, metal juice can.
  2. Cut off both ends so you have a metal cylinder.
  3. Cover one end with clear plastic or plastic wrap.
  4. Tape the edges of the plastic wrap securely to the can using duct tape.
  5. To use the periscope, put the plastic wrapped end of the can down into the water keeping the open end above water.
  6. Students now can look around and explore underwater looking at what insects are living there. Ask the students to record the insects they see.


Fast Food for Butterflies

Even if you don't have room for a butterfly garden, you can attract butterflies to your house or school garden by offering them some “fast food.”

  1. Cut purple, red, and yellow sponges into the shapes of flowers and place them into a shallow dish or pie tin.
  2. Mix 1/3 cup of sugar into one cup of water, stirring well until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour the sugar water into the dish with the sponges almost to the top of the sponges. The sponges should be wet to the touch.
  4. Place the dish outside and before long you should see butterflies landing on the sponges to sip the sugar water. Don't be surprised if other insects find their way to the sponges to take advantage of the sweet treats.


Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly gardens should provide food plants for caterpillars, nectar plants for butterflies and a place for butterflies to get water. By providing the right mix of plants, you can encourage butterflies to come into the garden.

Caterpillars eat leaves of plants to help them grow and build up energy to go on the next stage in their lives. Many caterpillars are very selective in what they will eat. Good larval host plants to put into the garden include dill, parsley, and carrot (attract black swallowtails); violets (attract fritillary); milkweeds (attract monarchs); and clover (attract clouded sulfurs). Adults will lay eggs on these plants, and the larva that hatch from the eggs will feed on these plants.

Nectar plants are the plants that the adults use for food. You should put a variety of plants into your garden so you can draw as many types of butterflies as possible. Some of the more popular nectar plants include butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan, verbenas, zinnias, white alyssum, purple coneflower, goldenrods and asters.

Locate these plants in a sunny area as butterflies fly best when their body temperature is 85-100 degrees. You might also want to put some rocks in the garden so butterflies can land on them and bask in the sun.

Provide a puddling area — a wet spot where male butterflies gather and drink water. This can be a mud puddle in the corner of the garden or a bowl filled with wet sand and sunk into the ground. Males puddle for extra sodium needed for mating.

Butterfly gardens do not need to be big or elaborate. Providing the basics of food plants for larva, nectar plants for adults and water should result in having these colorful insects paying you a visit.


Insects Undercover

A pile of log or dead leaves is a perfect place for insects to live. Ask the students to look under decaying leaves, mulch, logs or rocks to discover what insects are living there. Because it's moist, dam and dark, some insects find it an ideal environment. They break down this matter to usable nutrients and speed up the composting process. Students will find a lot of other animals in this environment as well. They will find frogs, toads, centipedes, and millipedes.


Design Your Own Bug

As an activity in CP's Fun Place, students can design their own bug by choosing the wings, antenna, body, and legs of their bug. They can then decide what to call it and determine important details about their bug. When they are done, they can send a picture of it to a friend with an e-mail post card. Or you could print out their postcard and it be sent in the mail. And they can e-mail it to C.P. for his bug collection. C.P. hopes to collect bugs from children around the world. Click here to see his bug collection. To answer your questions, you may e-mail C.P. directly at schoolsonline@extension.uiuc.edu.


Introduction | Statewide Standards | Getting Ready | Classroom Activities

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