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Ranger Rick
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Participant Age: 
Approximate Cost: 
$0
Duration: 
1 to 60 minutes
Date submitted: 
12/29/2011
Difficulty: 
Physical Challenge: 
Take a Bug Hike
It’s true, some “bugs” are bothersome, but plenty aren’t pests at all. Set off on a quest for the best kinds of bugs--and see who you meet! Then invite some to live in your yard.
Materials
  • Bug Bingo Sheets
  • Good Bug Survey print out
  • Insect field guide
  • Small glass jars (optional)
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Pencil or crayon (optional)
  • Sketchbook (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
Steps
Step 1
Put together a bug hunting kit.

Before you go hunting for bugs, put together a bug hunting bag with a magnifying glass, some jars and maybe a sketchbook to draw what you see.

You might print out our "Good Bug Survey" to better track your finds.

You might print out our Bug Bingo sheets to play a game while you hike.

You can also read about bugs in Ranger Rick magazine.

Step 2
Some bugs that you might see in your neighborhood include:
  • Predator insects, such as lacewings, ladybugs, praying mantises, and ground beetles, which eat the “bad bugs.”
  • Parasitic wasps, which lay eggs on certain troublemaking caterpillars and other pests.
  • Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths.
  • Recyclers such as carrion beetles.
Step 3
Remember to look under leaves.

Some bugs use camouflage to hide from predators, but others just hide, so be sure to peek under leaves.

Step 4
Make your garden more welcoming for bugs.
  1. Skip the pesticides. They kill the good guys along with the pests (and aren’t healthy for the environment, people, or pets).
  2. Plant flowers that provide food for helpful insects. Try herbs such as dill, cilantro, fennel, and parsley, as well as flowers including sweet alyssum, yarrow, lavender, cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers.
  3. Aim for variety. Choose lots of different kinds of flowers. That way, there’s a good chance something will be blooming to attract good bugs all season long.
  4. Provide shelter for good bugs. Trees, shrubs, ground covers, and grasses make safe places to rest. Mulch and stepping stones are nice to hide under.
  5. Add water. Place some rocks in a saucer and keep it filled with fresh water during dry spells.

Welcoming good bugs can help your garden grow better (because plants get pollinated). And if you welcome a few spiders, they might eat up those bothersome bugs like mosquitoes.

Step 5
Keep your eyes open for bug-observing opportunities.

Once you get familiar with the bugs in your yard, remember to try a bug hike further from home. You hopefully will see new bug friends, like this fuzzy caterpillar.

Step 6
See how the bugs change through the seasons.

It's exciting to find an empty cicada shell in the hot days of summer, or to watch a monarch caterpillar nibbling on a milkweed leaf. Insects tell us a story about the health of our habitat and climate. (Plus cicada shells are just so cool!)

Step 7
Study your bugs with an insect field guide.

Never get too close to a bug until you have identified it.

These bugs are milkweed beetles. They are harmless to look at, but if you were a bird and ate them, you'd get a nasty taste. They are fun to watch because they live in clumps on milkweed and have such bright stripes.

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