Learn More About Summer Insects
As the days get warmer and longer, plenty of things that were hiding in the winter will reappear. Flowers bloom, pools open and the students are freed from their classrooms. Bugs are no exception! Just like kids, insects come out to play in the summer months. We know that they may be pests when they’re in your home, but they’ll provide you with a fun learning opportunity for lazy summer days and nights — a summer insect safari.
Maryland’s Summer Insect Safari
One fun way to learn about pests and teach kids about science and the local ecosystem is to go on a summer insect safari. Use the list of summer insects below to explore the area with kids, trying to find as many of these native bugs as they can. All of the insects below are prevalent throughout the state of Maryland.
Butterflies keep ecosystems running by pollinating flowers and other plants, and these winged beauties flutter around all summer long. Keep an eye out for the American Lady butterfly and the Clouded Sulphur butterfly. Kids will find them in meadows, fields and parks all summer long. You can also hunt for the Eastern-tailed Blue butterfly, which is a frequent visitor to flower beds.
Grab a butterfly net and hunt for these insects in fields with wildflowers. Wait for the butterfly to land, and then swoop in a downward motion to capture them.
Maryland is home to the endangered Puritan Tiger Beetle, which can be found along the Chesapeake Bay. While kids will have a tough time finding this rare beetle, they can find other types of these winged insects all over Maryland and the rest of the east coast. Keep an eye out for the lady bug, American Carrion Beetle and the “false potato beetle.”
Beetles like ladybugs play an important role in the ecosystem as predators, keeping pests in check. To capture ladybugs, kids can use their butterfly net and make scooping motions across tall grasses.
These critters are more likely to be heard than seen. On warm summer nights, kids can hear crickets in fields and larger yards throughout the entire state of Maryland, if the kids are quiet. The males chirp to attract females, but they will quiet down if humans get too close. Listen and look for them in tall grass. Crickets play an important role in the ecosystem by eating the seeds of invasive weed species like crabgrass.
Want to catch crickets? Kids can catch them by leaving an almost empty bottle of soda out overnight. Crickets will be drawn in to the bottle by the sugar, but will not be able to get out.
Big Dipper Firefly
Another nighttime creature, the Big Dipper Firefly can easily be spotted because they emit a yellow-green glow from their abdomen thanks to chemical reactions. Look, but don’t touch: the bugs will not survive for long trapped in jars, so kids should not capture them. Look for them in open fields and meadows throughout all of Maryland.
Fireflies might seem cute and harmless, but they are actually predators. They play an important role in balancing the ecosystem by eating the larvae of snails, slugs, and earthworms.
Spiders might scare the little ones, but they are an important part of the ecosystem. As you look around for the grass spider, teach your children about how they eat other insects and keep the ecosystem in balance. To find the grass spider, look around in the grass, around fences and in shrubs for their trademark funnel webs. Need some help finding these spider webs? Go exploring after the rain, when the drops of water will cling to the webs and give you some extra help in spotting these spiders. Capture these spiders by sneaking up on them with a glass jar and gently but swiftly placing it over them.
Visit Ask the Entomologist on our website