Make a Beetle Habitat
In this science activity, kids will explore and create a beetle habitat where they can observe beetles!
Beetles are different from other insects because they have a pair of tough fore-wings called “elytra” and a second set of more delicate flight wings. The fore-wings protect the beetle’s body and the flight wings. Beetles can crawl around rocks, sticks, and leaves and not get hurt because their elytra are tough. When they are ready to fly, they open their elytra and unfold their flight wings.
Scientists who study insects like beetles are called entomologists. People have been fascinated by beetles for thousands of years; in fact, the ancient Egyptians often created artwork and jewelry to look like the scarab beetle.
Today, scientists have identified more than 300,000 different kinds of beetles, but there are likely thousands more still yet to be discovered. Beetles live everywhere on Earth except in the ocean and on Antarctica. Beetles are the most diverse species on the Earth, varying widely in size, color and shape. The smallest beetles can fit through the eye of a needle; the largest are the size of your fist! This is an excellent example of biodiversity.
Many beetles are helpful to humans by eating other harmful insects. For example, ladybugs (also called “lady beetles”) eat lots of tiny insects called aphids that can be harmful to plants. But other beetles, such as the Japanese beetle, are harmful because their eating patterns can kill trees and crops.
Place some soil, leaves, grass and small sticks in your recycled jar. Be sure the lid has a few holes in it for ventilation.
Do an online search for the types of beetles that live in your area, and where you are likely to find them.
Take your jar outside and go on a beetle hunt! When you find a beetle, gently scoop it up with your hands and place it in your jar. Be sure to put the lid on.
Do not leave your jar in direct sunlight, as the air inside a glass jar can heat up quickly and injure the critter inside.
Observe your beetle carefully -- maybe even make a sketch of it. If you have a magnifying glass, you'll be able to see even more details. Can you see its elytra? How many legs does it have? Does it have antennae? Be sure to release your beetle after a few hours so that it can return to its natural habitat. You are being an entomologist!