Summer time brings out all of the grasshoppers and crickets. It wouldn’t be a lazy summer evening in my world if there were no crickets chirping away outside of my window (and sometimes inside my house).
These insects are quite different than the ones that we have already looked at this week because they undergo incomplete metamorphosis. That scientific term simply means that when they emerge from their eggs, they look like miniature adults. There is no radical body change like we see when caterpillars turn into butterflies.
Find a net (I use an aquarium net at times) or use your bare hands and try to capture a cricket and/or a grasshopper. My children laugh like crazy whenever we are trying to catch one of these because it is not easy. While on the hunt, notice if your prey can fly away from you or not. Also, about how far are they able to jump? With older children it can be fun to compare this measurement to the body length of the cricket/grasshopper and then determine how far your child would be able to jump if they could do the same.
Once you have captured your subject or found suitable pictures on the internet, begin counting the number of legs and noticing if there are wings present. Identify the head, thorax, and abdomen. Do you see any antenna? What do the eyes look like? What color is your insect? Why aren’t crickets and grasshoppers bright red? Discuss camoflauge briefly if it is not mentioned. Why can they take such big jumps?
Encourage your child to draw a picture of the insect while making these observations. Generally, if we have to draw something we tend to look much more closely at it.
If you have more time, then you may want to try to estimate the temperature based on the number of cricket chirps. Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds. Add 48 to the number of chirps and that should be the approximate temperature. Is your cricket accurate?
http://www.naturesongs.com/cricket1.wav – a cricket audio file in case your child has never heard cricket chirps
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/insects/orthoptera/Grasshopperprintout.shtml – grasshopper diagram
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6opjbuMd5k&feature=fvwrel – 2:08 video showing a locust swarm and also a quick view of a locust molting