Exploring bugs in Central Texas through the eyes of a child

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Katy the Katydid

Today my mom brought home a katydid from the garden to show me. I didn’t know what it was so first I had to do some research.  So I got out my bug books and the iPad.  First we observed the bug and made a list of things we aw about it.  Here is my list:

  • Long antenna
  • bright green
  • body looks like a leaf
  • long hook-like thing on the end of the body

 

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I knew she was an insect because she had six legs, antenna, and three body parts.

Next we typed some of these things into the iPad and looked for pictures that looked like our bug.  When we found one, we saw that our bug was a true katydid.  The body of the katydid looks like a leaf.  This is called camouflage. Camouflage helps the katydid hide from things that want to eat it, like a bird.  Katydids eat deciduous leaves (my mom says that means leaves that drop off the tree once a year) and they like oak leaves so my mom found some white oak leaves and put it in the bug cage with Katy.

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This is a picture of a katydid from the internet.

But she was still not eating so it makes me worried and I kept checking on her.  We also found that katydids sing a song by rubbing their wings together.  And this is how they got their name, because someone thought it sounded like two bugs arguing back and forth:  “katy did”, “she didn’t”, “she did”, “she didn’t”.

Finally, after I got to watch her, I decided it was best to let Katy go.  That way I can always hear her singing in the garden and know she is there.

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Worms

Hi I’m back to talk about bugs.Today we are going to talk about worms. I know worms are not actually bugs but we love them because they are so good for the earth.   They help the earth breathe because they make tunnels in the dirt.  Tunnels supply air and water to the dirt.  They are so good that we keep a worm bin in our home.  First, we give them scraps of leftover vegetables and fruits.  Then they eat the scraps up.  Then they poop it out- this is called castings.  We clean the castings out of the bin and put the castings into the garden because they are very good for the soil and plants. 

Here are some questions you might have:

Is it stinky to keep a worm bin?

No.  If you do everything correct, your worm bin should not be stinky. 

Are the castings squishy?

The worm castings are soft and fluffy.  It really just looks like dirt.

Why are worms slimy?

The slime helps them move through the soil and keeps their skin moist so they can breathe because they breathe through their skin.

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So that is it for today.  Go out and love worms because they do a lot for us.

Leafcutter ants

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A worker ant moving pebbles out to build the nest

   Hi, this is Alex Martin reporting on bugs and today’s report is going to be about LEAFCUTTER ANTS!  Leafcutter ants are named because they cut leaves  with their mandibles (new word for me- it means jaws!) and  they carry them back to the nest and chew them up to help grow their fungus garden underground.  So leafcutter ants are very good gardeners.

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A leafcutter nest my mom recently saw

Leafcutter ants can have massive nests, much bigger than normal ant piles.  They also leave a trail by leaving this smell along the path (my mom says they are called pheromones) that the other ants can follow.  They cut the leaves and then carry them back.  They all walk along the same path so they leave trails on the ground that are easy to see.

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Checking out how ants deal with an obstacle

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You can see the well-worn ant trail in the above photo

Queens are much bigger than the others- around 1 inch (my mom showed me on a ruler) and others can be big protectors or smaller workers.  But they carry leaves much bigger than their bodies.  Overall, these are pretty cool bugs and fun to watch.

wolfie.

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Hi I’m back to talk about bugs.today we are going to talk about the wolf spider.  Wolf spiders do not spin webs.  They hunt to catch their food.  They have 2-3 rows of eyes, depending on what type of wolf spider they are. When wolf spiders have baby spiders, they climb onto the mom spider’s tummy and ride for a while.  They are not poisonous but are sometimes confused with the brown recluse spider because of the marking on its back.  They are called wolf spiders because people thought they hunted the way wolves do.  But they hunt alone.  They wait for their prey to come by and then they rush out to kill it.

I think wolf spiders are cool because  of the way they hunt.  I’ll be on the lookout for more of these cool guys.

My new neighbor

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Hi, I’m back real quick to tell you about my new neighbor. Meet the tarantula I found tonight in my driveway. He was a pretty good size and he is very good at climbing walls. My dad says he was out hunting for dinner and we should leave him alone. But I wonder if it is actually a girl spider. My question is how can you tell? I’ll have to look this up but right now, it is my bedtime. See you later.

Monarch Butterflies

SONY DSCHI I’m back to talk about bugs. This time I will write about MONARCH BUTTERFLIES. Monarch butterflies start as eggs and then hatch to caterpillars. When they are caterpillars they like to eat milkweed. A lot. And they become a chrysalis. And then after a lot of days later they hatch out as an adult butterfly. Monarchs migrate north and south with the seasons. They go to Mexico in the winter and north america in the summer.  And one butterfly does not make the entire trip- it takes 3-4 generations (that means it takes a butterfly and her parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents to make one trip.  But one of my questions is do they migrate east and west or in any other part of the world? They are one of the few insects that can cross the Atlantic and have even been found far away from us in a country called New Zealand.

Monarch butterflies stop to feed along the way and they use a part called their proboscis which is like a drinking straw that is all rolled up and they they unroll it and stick it in a flower to get nectar. Do they get pollen? Yes, they also pick up pollen and transfer it around to other flowers to help in pollination.  SONY DSC

My school garden is a Monarch Waystation . That means that we plant the stuff monarchs need on their migration vacation, like milkweed. Here are some photos from our garden, the Titan Garden.

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These monarch caterpillars have filaments at each end.

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Monarch caterpillars have yellow, black and white stripes

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You can see that monarchs have black bands on all of their wings. Queens look similar but don’t have all of the bands.

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A monarch caterpillar enjoying a party on milkweed

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A monarch caterpillar party on a milkweed plant. Monarch caterpillars feed only on milkweed.

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Salt Marsh Moth-so furry!

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Hi, its me and I’m back to talk about bugs.  Today we will talk about the insect above, the salt marsh moth.  I like it because it looks like they have fur on their backs.  And long striped antenna.

I read they can be found year-round in Texas.  As a caterpillar they look really fuzzy brown. They like to eat weeds that are plants. And also some vegetables.  The female moth can lay around 400-1200 eggs in clusters.  How does she do that?

Has anyone else ever seen this moth?  Have you seen the egg clusters?

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