Nature provides boundless ways to engage children. A walk outside can become an adventure with just a few helpful tools and an active imagination. Here’s an activity that can be easily done anywhere with kids — including your own backyard or the neighborhood park!
Bug Fun Facts
Did you know that if you put all the insects in the world on a giant scale, they would weigh more than all the humans?
Scientists estimate there are 6 to 10 million insects in the world and only about 1 million have been identified and named.
Insects are an essential part of the natural world and vary in size, color and shape — just like the plants they depend on. Insects have specialized eyes, mouths, legs and wings that allow them to interact with plants and animals in unusual and interesting ways.
You can take a Bug Safari anywhere, just step outside to discover the wonderful world of insects.
Bug Safari Tools
- Butterfly net with a long handle
- Clear plastic capture container to closely observe the insects. Be sure your capture container has holes cut in the top so your insects can breathe while you observe them.
- Magnifying lens or “bug box” with a magnifying lens on the top
- Guide to insects
Where to Look
Wide-open spaces with many different types of flowering plants commonly have butterflies, dragonflies and moths. Leaf hoppers and grasshoppers like open areas with tall grasses too.
Semi shaded wooded or moist areas provide nesting and hiding places. Fireflies, for example, hide in these damp places during the day and come out at night.
Vegetable and fruit gardens provide lots of juicy leaves and fruits for caterpillars, true bugs, beetles and many other insects.
Carefully sweep the net back and forth gently along the plants. Use upward sweeping motions to capture insects in the net. Close the top of the net opening so your insects don’t get away! Gently shake the insects to the bottom of the net.
Use a magnifying lens to look more closely at the insects you captured.
Try to find at least 5 different types of insects. How many different types of insects can you find?
Use an insect book or these body part sheets to compare body parts.
- What type of legs did you see?
- What type of wings did you find?
- Did you find mostly insects with hard outer wing covers?
- List the names or types of the insects you found. Look for common insects like beetles, butterflies, flies, leaf hoppers, ants, and more.
- Compare insects found in wide open, sunny spaces to those found in shaded areas. Did you find the same or different insects?
- Based on what you saw, what role do you think these insects play in the environment?
Just like large animals on an African Safari, insects have different roles in an ecosystem. They may provide ecosystems services such as pollination, insect control, and clean up duty as decomposers.
Create a Backyard Bug Habitat
Set up a small area at home that attracts pollinators and beneficial insects. Plant a variety of plants that have different flowers and different leaves. Different plants provide a variety of food and hiding places for a wide range of insects.
Grow native plants that attract the type of insects you like best.
- Do you like monarch butterflies? Plant Milkweed.
- What about Hawk moths? The larval stages are called tomato hornworms…guess what they eat?
- Black swallowtail butterflies? They like dill, Queen Anne’s lace and other plants in the composite family.
- What kinds of plants can you plant in your yard to attract different insects?
Take the next steps:
- Learn more Matthaei Botanical Garden and Nichols Arboretum at the University of Michigan.
- Learn about attracting wildlife to your garden.
- Play our Build-A-Bug Mad Lib.
- Learn about different kinds of butterflies.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two properties in different locations operating as one unit within the University of Michigan, with a mission to inspire and enrich people’s lives through contact with plants and nature. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is proud to partner with Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum to bring some of the adventures of the outdoors to Mott through regularly occurring activities for our Little Victors at the hospital. You can learn what activities are scheduled at the hospital during your visit by checking in with our Family Center on Level 2.
Camp Little Victors is the virtual summer camp program from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Each week, for six weeks, participants receive an email full of ideas and activities to help keep families busy, happy and healthy all summer long. Learn more and sign up.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.