For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals
Over the summer, I went to a science camp for girls of color hosted by female scientists at the University of Denver. The scientists who taught us were experts in different things, such as astronomy, biology, ecology, and entomology, which is a branch of zoology focusing on insects. We worked with telescopes, microscopes, computers, which we made, and LED lights. My personal favorite, and what we will be talking about today, was bugs and bug collecting kits. Believe it or not, bug collecting is an activity that has been around for a long time and became especially popular in the Victorian era (1837-1901, when Queen Victoria ruled).
In the entomology “unit”, we did an overview of the different types of insects and got our bug collecting kits. The kits came with a special pen, special paper (which degrades slower), a magnifying glass, and many other things! We practiced trying to catch bugs with our nets, and learned that you don’t really want to catch stinging bugs (like wasps!) with a net, and should instead catch them in different ways (we’ll go over those later). We also got some free time to look around campus for insects to catch. They taught us why bug collecting is important, because it lets us see the different types of bugs there are in a certain area, and the abundance, and richness of them, which is helpful for a entomologist.
Another way to catch bugs, besides just with a net, is catching them in a bowl. You can try this at home! Just add soap, water, and salt in a bowl, preferably bright yellow, and set it out and wait for a day or so. You can also add sugar, I believe, to attract more insects. Some people also do this with honey. In this camp, we did an experiment using this special way to catch bugs, to find the abundance of bugs in an area (how many there are in a given place) and the richness of the species (how many different types of bugs there are). You can look at the bugs with your naked eye, but you could also look at them under a microscope or magnifying glass, if you have one. If you want, you can research and identify the category each species goes under. Each species subcategory has a big, fancy name. You can look them up. For example, one is Lepidoptera: quite mouthful for a name meaning butterflies and moths!
Let’s move on to some bugs that live in Denver. I did a blog post a while back on Boxelder bugs, which you can get to from this link. They are interesting because they are “true bugs”, meaning that they have special mouthparts that make them part of the Hemiptera group. Some other true bugs are aphids, shield bugs, and cicadas.
Pretty much all the kids in my camp caught these next bugs: Japanese Beetles. They were everywhere on campus! As their name suggests, they come from Japan, and are an invasive species to Colorado. They are harmless and have an iridescent, shiny color similar to that of gasoline. Of all the bugs at my camp though, the ones most sought after were the dragonflies and the butterflies. When they gave us free time, we spent at least an hour trying to catch dragonflies at the edge of the school’s pond. Also, we ran around bushes like wild trying to catch butterflies. I eventually caught a butterfly that I believe is a painted lady butterfly, although it sadly had a ripped wing.
You can get bug kits online. I’m pretty sure that this is the one that we used, or at least it has all the same stuff.
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room: it’s sad that the bugs have to die, but it’s all for science, and they die without pain as long as you follow the instructions and use the kill jar.
All in all, I liked this camp a lot because it was fun, the people (both kids and staff) were nice, and we learned a lot from our teachers, who are experts in their fields. The only thing I would warn about the camp is that it’s about a term that some people use, the “hard sciences”, unfortunately not the “soft ones”, so no psychology (my favorite, besides zoology, of course) or sociology here. Also, if you want to learn more about bugs, go to my Wicked Bugs Review blog post. There is a picture of my collection below.