I’m not sure about that poet who decided it’s only boys who are made of snakes, and snails, and puppy dog tails. I am pretty sure that is what my girls are made of too. They sure do love creepy crawlies of all kinds. There is no fear or revulsion. Only curiosity and delight. They love bugs and reptiles!
In the past they have been happy to collect frogs and insects, with either their bare hands or their bug vacuum. These critters have then been placed into a large bucket for them to watch and handle for a few hours before being released back into their natural habitats.
This year we are using The Book of Insects by Memoria Press. Since beginning this course of study I have noticed that my stash of food storage containers is rapidly diminishing. When I manage to finally locate my missing plastic containers, I inevitably discover that there are holes poked in the lids, with colorful beetles or arachnids dwelling therein. These creatures are often sitting on top of leaves and sticks the kids have scavenged from the backyard, and lovingly placed in the containers to make the bugs feel more at home.
Numerous times I will open my internet browser and see something like “what do ladybugs eat” typed in the search bar. My children are collecting a Tupperware Library of insects and they have become such devoted and conscientious insect caregivers.
A short time after beginning her insect studies, my nine-year-old, Meredith, found a dark brown praying mantis in our backyard. She placed it in a big plastic container—probably something I have used to store spaghetti many times—and kept it overnight. The next day I happened to see a bright green praying mantis on our patio and pointed it out to her. She put that one in the container too.
Later, when some neighbors came over, the kids got both praying mantises out and sat on our driveway, letting them get their daily exercise, and lovingly stroking these two praying mantises. I am not kidding. They were literally massaging these praying mantises in a motherly and nurturing manner. They Googled “what do praying mantises eat” and attempted to catch live flies to put in their container.
The next day my daughter happily took her two praying mantises to show friends at her co-op class. After lunch time, the kids came back to check on Meredith’s praying mantises.
Before lunch, both praying mantises had been sitting there in the container, appearing as happy as they could be. After lunch, the kids discovered that praying mantises like to eat lunch too. And sometimes that means they eat each other for lunch. There was nothing left of the bright green one, except its head and a pile of legs. The dark one had consumed what she wanted, and left the rest.
The kids learned this fantastic science lesson: In life, it all boils down to this—you either eat, or you get eaten. And if WE are going to continue to eat, I suppose I had better add “more plastic food storage containers” to my shopping list!
Photo Credit: First photo graphic design by Charity Klicka; second photo taken by Amy Koons.