Engage Students with Creepy Crawly Hands-on Science

Launching your lessons with a hands-on activity is a great way to get kids re-engaged in your classroom after Spring Break!

Our most popular items for your students’ return are bugs and critters. Kids of all ages love exploring the world of creepy crawly bugs. Explore metamorphosis! Or teach about the critters’ roles in the ecosystem. Gather a variety of critters and host a bug show.

If you prefer to not have live critters, consider life cycle models for a hands-on, but not creepy-crawly, way to explore the life cycle of insects.

Caterpillars and butterflies.

We also provide classroom and individual student kits

Ants.

Harvester ants are HUGE and easy to observe. Keep them contained in a habitat.

Ladybugs.

Don’t forget a habitat!

Mealworms.

We also provide a growing kit with food, burlap, mealworms, pupae, and beetles; as well as an experiment kit to explore the mealworms’ sensitivity to light.

Praying Mantid egg case and habitat or individual egg case.

Pill Bugs.

These harmless roly poly bugs are a great choice for those of us who might be a tad bit squeamish about other bugs.

Snails: land and pond


Earthworms

Crayfish

Water Fleas

Crickets

Desert Millipede

Redworms

Hydra

Milkweed bugs and eggs

Planaria

Silkworms

Tenebrio Beetles

Vinegar Eels

Drosophila Fruit Flies

Brine Shrimp.

Shh, here’s a secret: Sea-Monkeys are actually brine shrimp.

 

What are your students’ favorite critters to explore?

Teaching the butterfly life cycle

This roundup of resources may help you teach the butterfly life cycle, whether you’re in a classroom, in a homeschool, or encouraging your child’s interests.

Butterfly Student Kit. Hands-on is the best way to learn and this particular activity is absolutely fascinating.

Butterfly life cycle model.

Our own articles on butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly Manual, with lesson plans and activities for K-12 students.

Butterfly anatomy worksheet.

Butterfly life cycle mini-book.

Basic butterfly life cycle printable.

Can butterflies hear? Do they make sound?

Most butterflies are quiet. But some, surprisingly can hear and “speak.”

A butterfly’s ear

A few species of butterflies have an “ear” on their wings called Vogel’s organ. It’s a sac filled with liquid that vibrates with sound.

Some butterflies can tell the difference between high and low pitched sounds.

Making sound

Some butterflies, like the Hamadryas feronia in the picture, make a clicking sound with their wing when following another butterfly around. The Hamadryas butterfly’s sound is loud enough for humans to hear and gives the butterfly its nickname of “cracker” butterfly.

Related products

Butterfly student kit

Butterfly life cycle model

More information

A picture of Vogel’s organ

Sound production and hearing in the blue cracker butterfly

Wing-click sounds of Helioconius cydno alithea butterflies

Butterfly Student Kit Review


The Butterfly Student Kit from Heath Scientific comes with a butterfly habitat, guide, dropper, and coupon for live caterpillars. The caterpillars and their food are mailed directly to you, any time of year. The product comes with a guarantee that at least 3 of the 5 caterpillars will turn into butterflies.

The Science

Watching the metamorphosis process is fascinating as butterflies go through four distinct stages of life. Learn the butterfly’s life cycle by observing it firsthand.

Reviews

This product tends to get high and enthusiastic reviews.

One reviewer described how her children would rush to see the progress of the caterpillars every morning and would call “Hey, Mom, come look at this!” Soon, she found herself rushing to the caterpillars and calling, “Kids, come look!” also.

A 5th grade teacher reviewing this kit said it helps her students really remember the metamorphosis stages to see it firsthand.

Easiest pet ever

Simple care.

No messes to clean up.

No feeding: caterpillars come with enough food.

If the butterflies emerge when it’s above 55 degrees outside, you can let them go in the wild. If not, they live for 2-4 weeks and eat sugar water.

For All Ages

Children of all ages–and even adults!–enjoy this butterfly kit. It’s a favorite gift for elementary-aged children, particularly the 5-7 year-old age range, but children as young as 2 thoroughly enjoy the butterfly kit. (Of course, always be careful with young children. Small parts can pose a choking hazard.)

Adults reviewing the product frequently mention how they themselves were, surprisingly, captivated by watching the metamorphosis.

 

What is an instar?


An instar is a developmental stage between molts. Most common insects go through 3-6 instars.

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillars, for example, go through several molts, or instars.

The first instar finds the monarch caterpillar pale yellow. At first, they don’t even have the distinguishing stripes of the monarch caterpillar. Second instar caterpillars have distinct stripes. Further instars find caterpillars with legs closer to their heads, different eating patterns, and even different behaviors.

More information

For a fantastic photo series on a monarch going through instars, then pupation, see this photo set.

The University of Minnesota has a great Field Guide to help you identify monarch instars, including identifying features and, best of all, a photo of all 5 instars + an egg together. It’s impressive.

To watch the instars of a painted lady caterpillar in person, try a Butterfly Student Kit.