Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Blog, She Wrote: Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Now that we know what entomology is and how to identify insects, and we have all of the equipment we need to get started, it’s time to collect our insects! Today is all about Best Practices for Collecting Insects- how to collect and preserve all sorts of insects.

Collecting Terrestrial Insects

You can find specimens flying through the air or crawling on the ground. How do you catch the insects- especially the dangerous ones?

  • Use an Aerial Net- To catch insects which fly, take an aerial net and “sweep” it over tall grasses in a meadow. It’s best to do this in the heat of the day when the flying insects are most active.
  • Clasp the Net- So that the insects which have gone in have to stay and usually you can work them to the opening you create while you have the killing jar at the ready.
  • Use Your Killing Jar- Make sure your jar is “charged” with ethyl alcohol and open it. Around here, it’s a two person job. One has the net and the other is ready with the jar. You can even do this with bees and yellow jackets, but you must be right there with the jar. This is my new go to in the house- rather than swatting, I arm myself with a container!
  • Use any jar or container- Once you have the insect inside, take the container to the freezer. This is a great idea when your killing jar isn’t charged and you aren’t in the field.
  • Be ready with a glassine envelope- Moths and butterflies either need to be paralyzed (which we really haven’t gotten the hang of yet, but requires you to hold it between the wings and squeeze enough to paralyze but not squish) or they can be placed in an envelope and taken directly to the freezer. The trick with these guys is not allowing them to struggle. Once they flap their wings too hard, they will lose scales and it won’t show as well once it’s pinned.

Blog, She Wrote: Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Collecting Aquatic & Soft Bodied Insects

Soft bodies insects are those without an exoskeleton like caterpillars, thrips, silverfish, etc. Aquatic species are larval forms of mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, etc.

Both are different from terrestrial species because they get collected and stored in alcohol.

  • Jar of Isopropyl alcohol- Bring along a jar (just a normal kitchen variety) 2/3 full of 70% rubbing alcohol. When it’s time to catch and collect these insects, you just grab them with some forceps and drop them into the jar.
  • Use a pan- To dump the water and critters from the bottom of the creek. From here you and your kids can investigate what came up with the aquatic net for collection.
  • Bring along collecting tubes- Sometimes it’s easier just to bring a few collecting tubes rather than a whole jar of alcohol. They are lighter and easier to carry if you are in a pinch.

Storing Collected Insects

Once you have the insects in your killing jar and alcohol jar, you have to take of them once you arrive home. It’s important to pin the terrestrial insects before long so they don’t dry out on you. Pinning a dried out insect is difficult and leads to breakage.

  • Remove insects from the killing jar- and put them into individual air tight storage in your freezer.
  • Decant the aquatic/soft bodied insects- Pour out most of the alcohol and add new alcohol to the jar. Once the insects die in the alcohol, the water inside of them will diffuse out and dilute the alcohol. You want to avoid that for long because a diluted solution will not preserve the insect. I like to decant and add 90% isopropyl. Decant the solution twice to be safe.
  • Separate the insects into vials- Ultimately, they will need to be in their own container. This will save you time when it comes to preparing your collection for evaluation.
  • Keep them in glass- as opposed to plastic for long term storage so they don’t dry out.

Blog, She Wrote: Best Practices for Collecting Insects

Keeping a Record of Your Collected Insects

You’ll want accurate records of your insect collection as you go along. If you are turning in your collection for judging, a written record is required. Also, you’ll need the collection information on all those tiny labels that go under the pinned specimen. Keeping the information as you go, will save time in the end. Even if you think your collection isn’t large. Here is a sampling of the information to keep:

  • Location of collection- both the place (address, name, and town with county) and the exact habitat it was collection from (pond, meadow, etc)
  • Date Collected- Month, day, and year for each specimen
  • Name of the Collector- You are permitted to have others collect for you, but make sure you note who it is.
  • Name of the Insect- First year entomologists are required to ID to the order only. In the second year, they add common names to the record keeping.

Most of all have FUN! Collecting insects is a challenge which can be very entertaining in its pursuit. As you gather specimens, things get exciting as you find new varieties and add things to your collection. The next step is pinning your insects. Join me!

Don’t forget to visit other iHN bloggers as they share a series this week for Summer 2014 Hopscotch.

iHN July 2014 Hopscotch

 

Entomology- The Science of Insects

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

This summer’s Hopscotch topic here at Blog, She Wrote is entomology. If you are an Instagram or Facebook follower of mine, then you may know that our nine year old is an entomologist. I thought it would be fun for me to report on how his year has gone and to share what we learned with you all.

As I write this, we are preparing for the 4-H Fair and his first year collection is just about ready. We have some labeling to do, but all of his specimens are pinned and we are in the home stretch. Today’s post is all about entomology- the science of insects including classification, & identification.

What is Entomology?

Officially speaking, entomology is:

A branch of zoology dealing with the scientific study of insects, including their taxonomy, morphology, physiology, and ecology.

This year Joshua has been studying entomology by attending lectures every month given by a husband-wife pair of PhD entomologists. They’ve been teamed up for years to lead an entomology project area for 4-H. For most of the time, he’s been attending with another 8 turning 9 year old boy and his dad. That’s right, parents are requested to be there for the ride. He’s had an amazing year learning all the intricate details of insect morphology while learning how to collect and pin insects for his own collection properly.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Classification of Insects

Insects are animals with six legs and an exoskeleton- among other common characteristics. They can be divided into many different orders. Even a young entomologist knows his insect orders! As you learn the orders, try to keep up with the latest research because sometimes they change. Our group is working with the latest findings from earlier this year. When entomologists discover orders are so related to each other they don’t need to be separate orders, they are combined. For example, termites and cockroaches are closely related and are no longer separate orders. This will be important if you are taking your insect collection to the fair!

Orders of Insects (as of February, 2014):

  • Archaeognatha- Bristletails
  • Thysanura- Silverfish, Firebrats
  • Ephemeroptera- Mayflies
  • Odonata- dragonflies & damselflies (each in their own suborders)
  • Plecoptera- Stoneflies
  • Notoptera- ice crawlers, rock crawlers, heel walkers (discovered in 2002)
  • Dermaptera- Earwigs
  • Embioptera- Webspinners
  • Phasmatodea- Walking sticks, timemas
  • Orthoptera- Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids
  • Mantodea- Mantises
  • Blattodea- Cockroaches and termites (formerly Isoptera)
  • Zoraptera- Angel insects
  • Hemiptera- True bugs, moss bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids (in suborders)
  • Thysanoptera- Thrips
  • Psocoptera- Psocids (booklice & barklice)
  • Phthiraptera- Lice
  • Coleoptera- Beetles
  • Strepsiptera- Twisted winged parasites
  • Neuroptera- Lacewings, antlions, mantidflies, owlflies
  • Raphidioptera- Snakeflies
  • Megaloptera- Alderflies, dobsonflies, fishflies
  • Hymenoptera- sawflies, horntails, wasps, ants, bees
  • Trichoptera- Caddisflies
  • Lepidoptera- Butterflies & Moths
  • Mecoptera- Scorpionflies, hangingflies
  • Siphonaptera- Fleas (though it turns out that fleas are highly developed scorpionflies so this order may soon be reclassified as Mecoptera)
  • Diptera- Flies

Joshua has to have 20 insect specimens with 12 orders represented in his first year collection. I’ve bolded the orders he’s collected this year.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Identification of Insects

Identifying insects comes after understanding insect morphology (form & structure). Once you know about biting mouth parts vs sucking mouth parts and whether to look for wings or not, etc.,  it’s easier to narrow down what the insect is.

Keys help you to look at the insect closely and make decisions based on the characteristics of the species. Use this dichotomous key to identify an insect down to its order.

Joshua has been memorizing the insect orders and trying to remember their features. If the name has “optera” in it, then it’s a flying insect, for example. He’s getting good at identifying by sight, but he still benefits from using the dichotomous key.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Resources for Classification & Identification of Insects

When we meet as a club, the leaders bring their guides to share with us. We also have our field guides. A comprehensive guide is important to an entomologist. Unless you have very young children, I would recommend skipping the children’s guides. I find my kids outgrow them very quickly. They can be less intimidating, but they lack information and sometimes make it hard to identify a specimen.

  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders (North American)- This is our main field guide. Not only does it have plenty of information on various species, but the color photographs make it easy to compare in the field- or at pinning time.
  • A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America- This one was useful to us as he identified all of the aquatic species in his collection. Can you tell the difference between different species of mayflies? This book will help! Joshua has at least two in his collection this year.
  • Dichotomous Key- Going beyond matching pictures is sometimes necessary for identification, especially in the insect world. A dichotomous key has students analyze features of the insect and make a choice between one presentation of a characteristic and another. By process of elimination, you come to the final choice which will tell you what the critter is.

One of my favorite things about this entomology club is the way they choose to instruct the kids. Rather than watering down the information, our mentors lecture on the information as if their audience is much older. The wonderful thing is to watch the boys ask for more after an hour of listening intently as anatomy is drawn on the board. I love that it is real science- not classroom oriented, mini-demonstrations or labs.

Knowing your student and providing him with the materials he needs to grow is crucial to seeing your kids stick with a project area and gain experience.

The rest of this series will be about the equipment, collecting, pinning, and displaying an insect collection. Please join in!

Other bloggers with the iHomeschool Network are sharing their own topics in this summer’s Hopscotch. See what they’re up to!

iHN- Hopscotch July, 2014

High Seas Adventure with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Blog, She Wrote: High Seas Adventure with The True Confessions of Charlotte DoyleThis post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

Summer time is a wonderful time for adventure even the kind we experience in books. Join me for some High Seas Adventure with The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

Sailing Resources for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

The setting for this story is a two masted sailing ship called a brig as she sails on the open sea. Any nautical tale is full of unfamiliar terms and responsibilities. Half the fun of this book is deciphering the sailor code. Here a few ideas for a sailing adventure activity:

  • Learn How to Make Knots- We’ve done a lot of knot making in our homeschool. Not only did sailors need to know many knots for various functions, but we use them a lot in camping.  There are lots of online instruction sites including You Tube along with a Klutz Book of Knots (if you can get your hands on one). Other sources for knots are the Dangerous Book for Boys and a game called Knot So Fast by ThinkFun.
  • Repair the Sails- Have you ever repaired anything you’ve ripped? Have you ever hand sewn canvas? Try using a needle and thread to fix a whole in your pants or hand sew a bag using a thick fabric. Is it easy? Can you imagine making everything this way and mending a ship’s sails like the crew members did?

Learn More about Sailing in The Early 1800s

Doing the research on the context of our novel might shed some light on how the characters behaved.

  • Etiquette- What was expected of people in various classes of the time? How was Charlotte expected to behave? How did etiquette contribute to how she treated the crew and what they initially thought of her? This book is just as much about character and the interpersonal relationships between people as it is is about sailing and the voyage. How did etiquette play a part in the plot?
  • Famous Ship Captains, ships, and ports- along with popular sailing routes. You can learn a lot about a time when you read about the people of the time. What was it like to cross the Atlantic in the early 19th century?

Blog, She Wrote Resources on Sailing Adventures

As you may have guessed, this topic is a favorite at our house. We’ve got some fun units and activities for you.

Other Sailing Adventure Books

If your kids like stories of adventure at sea, check out these other titles.

  • Swallows & Amazons- This is a series of books based on a group of kids who sail the lake district of England and have adventures there as well as the open water of the ocean.
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch- A classic tale of a man who taught himself and learned navigation. You’ll learn a lot about what sailing was like and how the first book of American navigation came to be.
  • Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of pirates and treasure has plenty of time at sea.
  • Under Drake’s Flag: A Story of the Spanish Main- Any story about early explorers will have an emphasis on their ships and journeys.

The story True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a tale of adventure on the high seas- of a girl from the upper crust of society who learns some valuable lessons about life and about who she is. It’s filled with adventure and intrigue and gives us a glimpse of what life was like on a large shipping vessel in 1832.

Other bloggers from the iHN are sharing their summer books with big ideas today too.BookBigIdeaSummer Drop in and see what other summer book adventures you can enjoy!

5 Favorite Resources for Spring Fun

Bright Ideas Press: 5 Favorite Resources for Spring Fun5 Favorite Resources for Spring Fun

Perhaps spring is halfway to summer where you are, but in upstate New York, we are slow to burst into spring, especially this year. Enjoy a little spring inspiration with these resources even if you are well into the season.

Click on over to Bright Ideas Press for 5 Favorite Resources for Spring Fun- you’ll find ideas for nature study, art, and science along with our favorite websites, books, and art products.

Many thanks to Bright Ideas Press for the opportunity to contribute!

The Salamander Room: Amphibians & Reptiles

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s the last day of March, 2014! Surely it will be time to choose spring titles and enjoy the good weather. The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer is an adventuresome tale of a young boy on a quest to keep a critter he finds in the woods.

Author Inspiration & The Making of a Book

We had the amazing opportunity to meet Anne Mazer last fall when she agreed to meet with our Writer’s Workshop group in our home. I was reading in the back of Spilling Ink, a book we use in workshop (which she co-authored) and it turns out she lives in our town! I reached out and she was delighted to join us. We were thrilled to listen to her stories about being an author and we learned the inspiration for The Salamander Room. Here are some tidbits of what she shared with us that day:

  • The Salamander Room was inspired by a boy asking his mom “what if” questions while she was on a group hike one day. All kinds of experiences lead to writing ideas! She’s never seen the boy since. Our writers thought it would be so cool if the grown boy were to find out he was the subject of this timeless tale.
  • We saw the galley copy of the book- A book galley is a preliminary copy of the book with most things final, but the author has a chance to change a few things if they are not right.
  • Author’s Notes- We saw an entire folder of notes and manuscripts of the book. Bits and pieces of her writing process- just fabulous!
  • The publishing process- She told us many stories of how a book comes to be from notes to published book. The kids were riveted and could have listened for hours.
  • What else? We learned about other books she has written and what books are in the works- like a sequel to Spilling Ink.
  • Bonus- She was thrilled to listen to the kids’ workshop stories that day. What an experience for the kids to be heard by our special guest that day.

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

Studying Amphibians & Reptiles

Spring is a wonderful time to get out and observe reptiles and amphibians. Vernal pools abound where these critters will make their seasonal start. Make plans to get out and observe!

Teaching Classification of Organisms

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

The study of animals gives you the perfect chance to introduce the categorizing of animals (and plants or other organisms). Discuss:

  • Linnaean Classification- A way to sort organisms by their like characteristics developed by Carl Linnaeus in the early 1700s.
  • Bionomial Nomenclature- Widely regarded as the biggest contribution Carl Linnaeus gave to the categorization of organisms.
  • Domains- Are you aware that there is a new level of classification above Kingdom? I have to admit this was new to me as I studied with my kids this year in biology- and I’m a certified biology teacher! The domains identify two types of bacteria and then eukaryotic life forms as the three domains. Which means if you use Domains, then you also have a four Kingdom system of classification.

The Classification Game

Blog, She Wrote: The Salamander Room- Amphibians & Reptiles

There are a variety of ways to play this classification game. You’ll need a large number of pictures of animals. If you want to include plants and other kingdoms that’s fine too. You’ll need to determine how big you want this game to be. You can use it to cover all of the classification system or just portions of it. The pictures here show classes within the animal kingdom. A few ways to play:

  • Plain Sorting- Give the student a large pile of animal pictures with no labels. Have them sort the animals into groups based on their characteristics. When all the animals have been sorted, have them take the class labels and place them with the correct group. This is a fun way for kids to discover how animals are alike and different and from there to identify and name the criteria for membership to a group.
  • Sort into Classes- In this version, set out the labels for the classes (and whichever other groups you want to include- orders, for example) and give the students the pictures. They must put the picture under the correct label. They can play alone or with others and take turns.
  • Race- this game is played with the labels already out and you provide each time with a set of the pictures. See who can win first. If you are playing in several groups and the winner isn’t entirely correct, then they are out and the other teams can start again.

Resources for Studying The Salamander Room

  • Giant Science Resource Book from Evan Moor- This is one of my favorite books for simple, clean, thorough notebook pages for elementary and early middle school science.
  • Fold n Learn – by Five in a Row. FIAR offers free fold n learns for their units if you sign up for their mailing list. What a deal!
  • Snakes in Culture- CurrClick class on April 15th. Take a look at the snakes around the world and how they are viewed in that culture. A family friendly one day class.
  • Five in a Row unit on The Salamander Room at Blog, She Wrote
  • Adventure Box: Insects & Critters- has many ideas and resources for keeping your own amphibian and reptile pets

Have fun exploring critters and habitats in the warm weather this spring!

BookBigIdeaSpringJoin other iHomeschool Network bloggers for A Book & A Big Idea Spring. Put a little spring in your homeschooling this season with lots of seasonal book ideas.