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 are bugs and critters. Kids of all ages love exploring the world of creepy crawly bugs. Explore metamorphosis! Or teach about the critters role 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
Creepy Crawly

Ants

Harvester ants are HUGE and easy to observe. Keep them contained in an Ant Farm. For more cool info on ants and their environments check out our page here.

Creepy Crawly

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 mealworm’s sensitivity to light.
Creepy Crawly

Praying Mantis egg

Praying Mantis are also referred to as Stick Bugs!

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

Did you know some snails hibernate during the winter?


Earthworms

Depending on the species an adult earthworm can grow to almost 10 feet long!

Crayfish

Also known as Crawfish, Crawdads and Mudbugs, yumm!

Water Fleas

Crickets

Believe it or not they can make a tasty treat!

Desert Millipede

Redworms

Hydra

Milkweed bugs and eggs

Planaria

Silkworms

Silkworms are the primary producer of silk.

Tenebrio Beetles

Vinegar Eels

Drosophila Fruit Flies

Brine Shrimp

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

 

Would you like to find out where to find / buy any of these cool creepy crawly critters? Send us a message under our Contact Us page.

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.

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.

Silkworm Life Cycle

Known for the silk thread they produce to form their cocoons, the silkworm is the larvae stage for the Bombyx mori moth. As an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis, it has 4 stages of development.

Eggs

The eggs are very tiny and are usually laid near the end of summer or early fall. They remain dormant until spring or when warmth stimulates a spring season environment. It takes the eggs about two weeks to hatch after they are activated.

If you want to store Silkworm eggs, be sure to put them in a fridge right away (don’t freeze them). Keep them near the warmer part of the refrigerator.

Larvae (Silkworm)

silkwormsNewly hatched silkworms are small (1/8 inch), hairy, and eat tender mulberry leaves. The hair gets shed when they go through their first of five growth stages called instars.

You can tell an silkworm is about cross an instar stage because it will hold its head up in the air. Its important to not touch or disturb the silk worm as its transitioning between instar stages. It will then shed its outer layer of skin. After each instar the silkworm is able to eat tougher mulberry leaves and will be bigger.

After 5 instar stages, the Silkworm will encase itself with a silk cocoon.

Pupa (Cocoon)

Silkworm cocoonSilkworm cocoons will be shades of white, cream, and yellow. They will have a glistening shine because of the silk they are made from.

After 2 weeks, the silkworm releases an enzyme from its head that dissolves the silk. It then emerges as an adult moth.

Adult (Moth)

Adult: Bombyx Mori mothSilkworm moths (Bombyx mori) do not eat or drink. They crawl around but do not fly. Females have a larger abdomen and are not very active. Males have much larger antennae and will vibrate its wings rapidly as it seeks a female.

After reproduction, the male moth dies. The female will lay eggs within 24 hours and die shortly thereafter.

Interesting Silkworm facts

Due to hundreds of years of domestication (providing abundant food and pampering them), Bombyx mori (silkworms) do not crawl away in the pupa stage and can’t fly in the adult stage.

Silk is harvested by killing the pupa (by heating or pricking with a needle) and then unwinding the thread of silk, which can be half a mile long.

The entire life cycle only takes a couple months.

The Bombyx mori silkworms were originally domesticated in China where the secret to producing silk was closely guarded for centuries but was leaked around 200 BC and eventually was also produced in India and Europe.

Silkworm pupae are a delicacy eaten in China.

Where you can buy Silkworm Supplies

Silkworm food

25 live silk worms

25 silk worm eggs

Silkworm life cycle model

Where you can learn more about Silkworms

Detailed life cycle

History and general information

Another step-by-step life cycle