From building a bug house to turning over rocks, here are some fun and simple ways to insect hunt. Check out these fun activities for kids and their parents.

Watching crickets, spiders and lightning bugs can be a fun way to learn about insects. Crickets are believed to bring good luck and fireflies use their light to send signals to other lightning bugs.

Follow the links below to learn more about bugs and insects.

Bug House

Make a simple house you can use to observe bugs.

Chirping with Luck

Make a kit in which to keep a good-luck cricket.

Beetle Mania!

Learn different ways to observe beetles.

Body Parts

Worming Around

Find out how to make a house for Caddisfly.

Find the Hidden Place

Collecting Insects

Find out how to start your own insect collection.

Let's Go Skating!

Light up the Night!

Learn more about fireflies on this page.

Mini Pit Trap

Learn how to create traps to capture insects.

Soil Discovery

The Pitfall Trap

Learn how to make a trap to catch creepy crawlers.

The Underside of Nature

Find out how to look under rocks for insects.

For more fun activities and animal crafts, check out:

Bug House

Make a house to watch bugs.
Make a house to watch bugs.

Make a simple bug house, and capture an insect to observe it for a day or two.

Bug House

In this bug house, you can observe an insect.

What You'll Need:

Clear plastic cup

Plastic spoon

Dirt

Twigs

Leaves

Rock

Water

Bottom of a leg of a nylon stocking

Twist tie

Step 1: Scoop a few spoonfuls of dirt into a plastic cup. Add some leaves and twigs and a rock.

Step 2: Moisten the soil and leaves with few drops of water.

Step 3: Set the cup inside the end of the nylon stocking.

Step 4: Now find an interesting bug. Place the bug inside the cup. Seal the top of the stocking with a twist tie. Observe your insect guest for a day or 2, and then set it free outside again.

On the next page, learn how to make a kit to keep a cricket.

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Chirping with Luck

Make a home for a cricket.
Make a home for a cricket.

Crickets chirp with luck (so the legend goes). If you have a friend who really wants to care for a critter, this cricket kit could be the perfect gift.

Cricket Kit

What You'll Need:

Clear plastic jar

Nail

Cotton ball

Cat food

Cricket

Keeping crickets is fun and easy.

Step 1: Search your yard for a cricket. If it's winter or extremely cold outside, you might have to turn to your local pet store to buy a cricket (for about a dime).

Step 2: Wash the jar thoroughly.

Step 3: Have an adult help you poke a few air holes in the upper edge of a clean plastic jar (such as an empty peanut butter jar) with the nail.

Step 4: Slip your cricket into the jar along with a cotton ball soaked with water and a little cat food crushed to a fine powder.

Give the jar to your friend and watch him or her grin. Remind your friend to feed and water the cricket every other day. Give your friend a few extra cotton balls for water and a plastic bag full of crushed cat chow, just to get them started. And tell them the crickets should live at least 3 months (sometimes longer).

On the next page, find out how to watch mealworms grow into adult beetles.

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Beetle Mania!

Watch mealworms grow into adults beetles.
Watch mealworms grow into adults beetles.

When is a worm not a worm? When it's really a beetle! Observe the growth of these amazing insects in this beetle mania activity.

Beetle Mania!

What You'll Need:

Mealworms

Glass jar with lid

Bran or oatmeal

Apple or potato

Water

Some creatures go through big changes during their lives. One example is the mealworm, also known as the mealy worm. You can buy these at a pet store, and watch them "grow up" into adult beetles.

Step 1: Put your mealworms in a glass jar with some raw bran or oatmeal. Also put in some pieces of raw apple or potato for the mealworms to eat.

Step 2: Sprinkle a little water in the jar, and put on the lid. (Make some small holes in the lid so air can get in.) The mealworms will morph into flour beetles.

There are more than 300,000 types of beetles in the world. Some of the largest -- the Goliath beetles -- can grow as big as your fist!

Check out the next page to find out what makes ants different from spiders.

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Body Parts

Learn the differences between ants and spiders.
Learn the differences between ants and spiders.

How does an ant look ­compared to a spider? Look at their body parts to find out.

Explore Body Parts

What You'll Need:

Ant and spider (or models of each)

Magnifying glass

Modeling clay

Toothpicks

Branches

Step 1: Take a good look at an ant and a spider. The closer you look, the creepier they seem, with appendages and bristles sticking this way and that. In this activity, you will find interesting differences between insects and spiders.

Step 2: Look at their bodies. How many body parts does the ant have? How many body parts does the spider have? How many legs does the ant have? How many legs does the spider have? Which organism has 2 thin antennae coming from the top of its head?

Step 3: Now use what you know about insects to design your own. Use modeling clay to make an insect with 3 body parts. Decide how large your insect really is. Use something thin, such as toothpicks, as antennae. Use something wider, such as branch segments, to add 6 legs.

Step 4: Write out the following information about your insect: What is the name of your creature? Where does it live? What does it eat? How does it protect itself from predators?

Safety

Don't do this activity with ants that bite.

What Happened?

There are similarities between insects and spiders. Both have jointed legs and hard external skeletons, called exoskeletons. But there are also many differences. Insects have 3 body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen) and 6 legs. All the legs are attached to the thorax. Insects typically have antennae that help them sense and respond to changes in their environments.

Although most ants do not have wings, most insects do. Spiders, however, never have wings.

Spiders have 2 body parts, the cephalothorax and abdomen. They have 8 legs, 4 on each side. Another difference is that spiders do not have antennae, but insects do.

On the next page, learn how to watch caddisfly nymphs build their home from materials around them.

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Worming Around

Learn about caddies worms in this "worming around" activity. Caddis worms are the larvae of caddisflies. The worms carry around the silken cases the flies live in. The word "caddis" comes from an old European word meaning "cotton wool."

Moth-like caddisflies lay their eggs in ponds, marshes, or streams. The nymphs that hatch are aquatic. To protect themselves, they build cases from the materials around them. The nymphs, camouflaged in their cases, can extend their bodies to feed. One kind of caddisfly builds a case resembling a miniature pine cone, bristling with bits of dead leaves. Another builds a long, narrow, cone-shaped case.

Caddisfly Houses

What You'll Need:

Caddisfly nymphs (collect from a pond)

Plastic cups

Natural material for case-building, such as sand and bits of dead leaves

Step 1: Watch caddisfly nymphs build their cases from material around them. Find caddisfly nymphs in clear, shallow water at ponds and streams. You may be able to catch them with your hands. You can also catch them with a dip net.

Step 2: When you've collected several nymphs, fill some plastic cups with pond water, one for each nymph. Gently remove a nymph from its case and put it in a plastic cup.

Step 3: In one cup, break apart the nymph's old case and see if the nymph will use it. In another, try broken-up dead leaves. In another, try sand, dry grass, or anything else "natural."

Step 4: Time the nymphs to see how long it takes them to build cases.

Does it take longer to build a case from one material than another?

Before letting the nymphs go, offer them the same material their original cases were built from and let them make new protective cases.

On the next page, learn how to look for insects in leaves.

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Find the Hiding Place

Galls are hiding places for insects.
Galls are hiding places for insects.

If you've ever looked closely at small plants and trees, you may have noticed bumps on their leaves or stems. Those bumps -- called "galls" -- are made by tiny insects. Find insect hiding places by making careful observations.

Find the Hiding Place

What You'll Need:

Galls

Glass jar

If the gall contains holes, it tells you that the bugs "holed up" there have left. A gall that doesn't have holes is still hiding some insects.

Go for a walk and look for galls on plants and trees. Oak trees are a favorite hiding place of gall-making insects. If you find some galls without holes, pick the part of the plant with the gall. Put it in a glass jar and cover the jar loosely, so air can get in. Keep an eye on the gall.

If you're lucky you might see tiny bugs coming out of hiding. After they do, take the jar outside and gently put its contents on the ground.

On the next page, find out how to start your own insect collection.

For more fun activities and animal crafts, check out:

Collecting Insects

Transfer insects to smaller jars.
Transfer insects to smaller jars.

Hunt for insects and other small creatures when the weather is warm. You can collect insects harmlessly by letting them crawl onto your pencil.

Insect "Collection"

What You'll Need:

Small jar

Magnifying glass (or a "bug box" with a magnifying lens)

Notebook

Pencil

You can find insects and other small creatures in shrubs, trees, in the layer of leaves on the ground, and around lights at night. Capture a few insects in a jar, then gently transfer them to smaller jars or bug boxes.

Step 1: Use a lens to take a closer look at your bugs. Count the number of legs first. Insects have six legs. Spiders (and a spider-like animal called a "Harvestman") have eight legs. Isopods (often called "pill bugs") have even more.

Step 2: Look at the shape of the body. Does it have a "waist" (the narrow area between the thorax and abdomen) as ants and hornets do? Does it have a wide shell as beetles and many true bugs often have? What about wings? Not all insects have wings. If yours does, look at the pattern of veins, which are often used to tell one species from another.

Step 3: Carefully draw each of the features in your notebook as you observe. You may want to make separate drawings of the top and bottom views, and close-up studies of wings, legs, eyes, or mouth parts. Let your bugs go as soon as you can. Then find more to add to your collection.

Check out the next page to find out how to look on lakes and ponds for water striders.

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Let's Go Skating!

Let's go skating! If you're lucky, you've had the chance to go skating on a frozen pond in the winter. But you've never gone skating on a pond in summer -- unless you're a water strider.

Let's go Skating

Water striders are insects that live on the surface of a pond or river. They have long, skinny legs that allow them to spread their weight (which isn't much!) over the water's surface, so they don't sink.

With an adult, go to a nearby pond or stream, and see if you can spot any water striders. Look in places where the water is calm. If you do, you'll understand why they're also called "pond skaters." Just don't try it yourself!

Do you want to learn more about insects? Find out about fireflies on the next page.

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Light up the Night!

Watching fireflies can be fun.
Watching fireflies can be fun.

Fireflies have their own, built-in flashlights that light up the night! Catch and observe some of these amazing creatures.

Light up the Night

What You'll Need:

Fireflies

Glass jar

As you may know, fireflies are also called lightning bugs. Those tiny, blinking lights add beauty and mystery to a summer night. But, for fireflies, they also serve a purpose. They're flashing a code to try to find a mate. In fact, different kinds of fireflies have different colors of lights and blink them at different speeds.

It's fun to catch and watch fireflies -- as long as you're gentle and you let them go after a few minutes. You're likely to find fireflies hovering over tall grass on summer evenings.

Hold up a big glass jar, and move toward the flashing lights. When you capture a firefly, put your hand over the top of the jar. Time the flashes to see how far apart they are. Then catch another firefly, and see if the flashes are timed the same -- or different.

Find out how to catch other bugs for more up-close views on the next page.

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Mini Pit Trap

Catch small creatures for a close-up view! Construct a mini pit trap to help you catch them.

Mini Pit Trap

What You'll Need:

Garden shovel

One-quart cottage cheese tub or similar container

Rocks, board or brick about six inches wide

It's easy to make a miniature trap to catch small insects, spiders, and other soil creatures for observation.

Step 1: First, get permission to dig a hole a bit deeper than your container. Make the hole a half-inch deeper than the tub and a little wider.

Step 2: Set the tub upright in the hole and fill dirt in around the sides. Place four small rocks on the surface near the edges of the hole and set a board or a brick on the rocks.

Step 3: Now wait for small creatures to fall in your trap. Some will crawl out of the soil and fall in the pit. Others will seek shelter under the board or brick and fall over the edge. Leave the trap out a few hours. Check it in the evening and the next morning. See what happens when you set traps in sunny spots, under a tree, or in a vegetable garden.

Learn how to dig up soil and observe organisms on the next page.

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Soil Discovery

Dig up soil to see what types of insects you can discover.
Dig up soil to see what types of insects you can discover.

Make a soil discovery when you find a community of creatures living under the soil!

Soil Wildlife

What You'll Need:

Trowel

Shallow dish

Magnifying glass

Notebook

Pencil or pen

Go outdoors with a trowel and dig around under large shrubs where leaves have fallen. Brush aside the top layer and dig up some of the partially decayed leaves and the soil underneath them. Spread your sample out in a shallow dish and observe it with a magnifying glass.

Record and draw the organisms you see, such as:

Earthworms: Easy to recognize by their segmented bodies.

Beetles: These insects have six legs and a hard, shiny look. They may be black, metallic green, gold, or blue.

Grubs: These larvae of beetles and flies are worm-like, but thick-bodied with many stumpy legs.

Springtails: These tiny, pale, wingless insects, usually white or pale gray, have a special structure on their abdomens which they use to spring high into the air.

Spiders: Unlike insects, spiders have eight legs. Not all spiders weave webs. Some live and hunt near the ground.

Mites: These have eight legs, like spiders, but are round-bodied.

Centipedes: Centipedes have one pair of legs per segment. They can bite, since they are predators.

Millipedes: They resemble centipedes, but their legs are shorter, and they have two pairs of legs per segment. Millipedes do not bite.

Beetles, earthworms, springtails, and millipedes feed on dead plant material. By breaking leaves into tiny pieces, they make it easy for bacteria and fungi to complete the decay process. Centipedes and spiders are predators.

Find out how to make traps to catch insects on the next page.

For more fun activities and animal crafts, check out:

The Pitfall Trap

Make a trap for bugs.
Make a trap for bugs.

Create a pitfall trap to catch creepy crawlers.

The Pitfall Trap

What You'll Need:

Trowel

Glass jar

Grass

Plastic plate

4 stones

Imagine walking through a jungle and all of a sudden falling into a huge pit! You will make a similar pitfall trap for bugs.

Step 1: Dig a hole in the ground the same size as your jar.

Step 2: Put a pillow of grass in the bottom of the jar so the bugs that fall in will not get hurt. Don't add too much grass, or the bugs will use it to climb out of the jar.

Step 3: Bury the jar so its top edge is even with the ground.

Step 4: Mount a plate on 4 stones so it sits above the jar. Check each day to see what types of organisms are caught. Release the bugs after you study them for a day.

Step 5: Compare different areas to see which ones catch the most insects. For example, you might compare a natural forest area to a lawn.

Step 6: Now invent different types of pitfall traps.

Safety

Work with an adult and work carefully when burying and unburying the glass jar. Do not handle unknown insects.

What Happened?

While walking about, bugs fell into your jar. The slick glass prevented some bugs from being able to walk out. Some insects, such as roaches, can walk up glass walls; if they fell in, they escaped. If you put the pitfall trap in different areas, you can catch different bugs.

For example, a forest's bugs might be different than bugs on a lawn. (Although some of the bugs in a forest might be the same as the bugs on a lawn, the forest would have a greater variety.) The great amount of biodiversity in forests is why many people want to protect them.

On the next page, you'll learn how to find out what lives under rocks.

For more fun activities and animal crafts, check out:

The Underside of Nature

Look for insects under rocks.
Look for insects under rocks.

There's a whole side of nature that no one ever sees -- the underside of nature! See what lives under a rock.

The Underside of Nature

Take a walk in a wooded area. When you come across a big rock, turn it over. You'll be amazed at the busy world that's under there. Check out all the creatures that live under the rock.

Do you recognize any of them? You might find beetles, worms, or centipedes. You might even find an entire ant colony hidden from sight! Many types of creatures will make their home under a rock during the day and come out at night, when they are protected by darkness.

After your visit, be sure to put the rock back exactly as it was, so life on the underside can get back to normal.

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ABOUT THE CRAFT DESIGNERS

The following crafts were designed by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe, and Kelly Milner Halls.

Worming Around

Mini Pit Trap

Soil Discovery