Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Insect Experiments


Buggy Decomposition

In this insect experiment, kids get to watch fruit undergo some buggy decomposition. All you have to do is throw some pears in a jar and let the insects do all the work.

What You'll Need:

  • Pear
  • Plastic knife
  • 3 jars with lids
  • Nylon screen
  • Rubber band

Buggy Decomposition Insect Experiment
Watch those bugs chow down on the fruit.

How to Do Buggy Decomposition:

Step 1: Cut a pear into 3 equal pieces. Put each section into a jar.

Step 2: Leave 1 jar uncovered, put nylon screen over the second jar and attach it with the rubber band, and screw the lid tightly on the third.

Step 3: Put these jars outside in the same place. Observe the jars every day for a few weeks. Where do the bugs congregate?

Safety Tip: An adult should help cut the pear. Do not touch, eat, or smell the pears after the experiment begins. At the conclusion of the experiment, put lids on the jars and throw them in the trash!

What Happened?

You probably found that the fruit in the jar with no lid rotted the fastest. Insects, bacteria, and fungus easily enter open jars and cause decay.

The fruit in the jar with the lid on it rotted the slowest; the lid blocked decay organisms from coming in. But because the fruit already had some organisms on it, the fruit still slowly decayed.

The jar with the nylon screen prevented most decay organisms from entering, so the fruit did not decay as quickly as did that in the open jar.

Fun Fact
The adult and larva form of the dung beetle feed on feces. While that seems creepy, it may make your life better. As it feeds on dung it breaks it into smaller pieces so that bacteria can break it down quicker. The beetle lays its eggs in the dung and buries it, which keeps flies from laying their eggs. Dung beetles are so useful that Australia imported them to break down the feces of imported cattle.

For more crafty fun and animal-related activities:

ABOUT THE EXPERIMENT CREATORS

Be an Isopod Expert by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, Kelly Milner Halls
Warm Bugs, Cold Bugs by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, Kelly Milner Halls