Although most parents tend to discourage children from bringing bugs into the house from outdoors, this time of year is the perfect time to encourage your child’s creativity, thirst for knowledge and exploration. Taking hikes, trips to the park and even a walk through your own back yard can result in a vast selection of sample bugs in which to turn into a collection. Simple collections may include an assortment of grasshoppers, beetles, moths, butterflies and ants or any insects that you and your child find while exploring your environment. Information is available on-line regarding how to kill the insects in a manner in which you will be able to preserve them for mounting. Below are a few recommended tips and tools for use during sample collection:
- A soft paintbrush can be used to sweep samples gently into vials or containers, this is especially important for smaller specimens which may otherwise end up crushed.
- Tiny vacuum mechanisms are available commercially to aide in capture of smaller insects as well.
- Be sure to document the habitat in which the insect was found. This can be useful during the identification process as well as a great addition to the collection. Snap a picture of the insect with your cell phone to print later. This is also a great method of creating a collection if your child does not want to kill the insects. Be sure to note the time of day and where exactly the sample was collected. A small notebook and numbered vials or containers may also be helpful.
- Purchase a small microscope for your child to use for basic identification. This will allow your child to look at the identifying characteristics including nodes, hairs and other body structures. A hand lens may also be carried during the collection process.
- Use your best judgment when collecting samples, always keeping safety in mind. While most insects are fairly harmless, some bite, sting or otherwise cause medical concerns. If you are uncertain about an insect either take a picture to look up information on handling at a later point or utilize techniques such as the paint brush in which direct contact with the insect is not necessary.
Most importantly, remember to have fun with your child. Encourage them to learn about the insects that they collect even if they intend only to study them and set them free again.