Insect Experiments

Be an Isopod Expert

One very interesting insect experiment you can do is to be an isopod expert. Whether you call them pill bugs, sow bugs, or potato bugs, isopods are fun to observe.

What You'll Need:

  • Jar for collection
  • Garden gloves
  • Foil
  • Lamp
  • Black paper
  • Small desk lamp
  • Sand
  • Two teacups
  • Water

Be an Isopod Expert Insect Experiment
Be an Isopod Expert
Insect Experiment

How to Be an Isopod Expert:

Step 1: Take a jar and collect a dozen or so isopods. Wearing gloves, look under flowerpots, beneath big rocks, under logs or boards, and in compost heaps. Put some damp soil or rotted wood in the jar for the insects to hide in.

Step 2: Make an isopod runway. Cut a large piece of foil and fold it in half for strength. Fold it into box shape measuring about eight inches long, two inches wide, and two inches deep.

Step 3: Now experiment to see what kind of environment isopods prefer. Test one factor at a time to decide what factors are most important to the insects. When you are done with the experiments, return the isopods where you found them.

Test #1: Light vs. dark. Cover one-third of the length of the runway with black paper. Shine a small desk lamp on the other end. Place the isopods in the middle and see which end they settle down into.

Test #2: Dry vs. wet. Put dry sand in one end of the runway. Put wet sand in the other end. Put the isopods in the middle and see which end they prefer.

Test #3: Cold vs. warm. Fill one teacup with hot water and the other with cold. Set the runway on the two teacups, one at each end. Put the isopods in the middle and see which end they prefer.

So What is an Isopod?
Isopods go by many names. The round ones that roll up are pill bugs. Those with flat bodies that don't roll are sow bugs. Both may be called wood lice, roly-polies, or potato bugs. Isopods are not bugs or lice -- they are crustaceans related to crabs, lobsters, and crayfish.

Find out what effect temperature has on insects in the next experiment.

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