Kids who are fascinated by insects might want to pretend that they are entomologists and conduct a few simple science experiments to learn more about how the bugs in their backyard behave. These experiments don't require special materials, yet offer a way for kids to get a hands-on look at how science can be used to answer questions they have.
Learning How Insects Respond to Heat
To learn more about how insects behave, your child can conduct an experiment to see how they react to heat. Have an adult cut off the top portion of a large plastic bottle. Put the top part of the bottle upside down inside the bottom part to create an empty plastic cave. Add a small amount of dirt and leaves to the bottle. Place two or three insects in the bottle and put the bottle under the lamp. Watch carefully to see how the insects react to the heat. As time passes, the insects will burrow through the soil to try to get into the bottom part of the bottle. The insects want to get into the part of the bottle that is more comfortable, just like how people want to go back inside to cool off after spending a few hours at the beach.
Discovering What Insects Like to Eat
Kids who love candy will enjoy seeing how insects react to sweet treats. Capture a grasshopper, ant or lady bug. Prepare one small dish of plain water, a second dish of water sweetened with sugar, a third small dish sweetened with a sugar substitute and a fourth dish with a dash of salt added to the water. Ask your child to predict which dish the insect will prefer. If you wish, you can let your child set out small samples of other food items to see what the insects favor. For example, your child might want to see whether the ants will prefer doughnuts over carrot slices or cookies over celery sticks.
Watching How Insects Cause Decay
If you're looking for a science experiment that can be done over time, cut a piece of fruit into three equal pieces. Place one part in a clear glass jar with a lid, place the second part in a jar with a mesh covering and place the final part in a jar without a lid. Place all of the jars outside and have your child keep track of what each jar looks like over a two-week period. As time passes, the fruit in the jar with no lid will decay the fastest because insects will be able to easily access it. The fruit will decay more slowly in the other two jars, but you should still see signs of decay by the end of the experiment. Explain to your child how insects can be used to help food scraps decay into compost that can be used for gardening.
Finding Natural Insect Repellents
Although insects do benefit the environment, we generally prefer to keep them outside our homes. Have your child investigate natural ways to keep ants away by seeing how ants react to various substances inside your home. Vinegar, cinnamon, chalk, baby powder, coffee grounds and citrus peels are all known ant repellents, but encourage your child to come up with ideas for other substances to test. For example, some kids might want to see whether salt repels ants based on the results of their experiment on what insects like to eat.
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