Make a butterfly feeder

In the last post Kate told us all about her favourite butterfly. In this post I will be showing you how to make your own butterfly feeder, from items you might commonly have at home, to help attract butterflies, and other insects, to your outside space. I had to raid my recycling bin for key materials.

Here are the same instructions on how to make a butterfly feeder, as can be seen in the video:

What you will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Coloured pens or paints
  • String or wool
  • Glue or sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Bottle top
  • Hole Punch
  1. Take a piece of cardboard and draw a flower with five petals, roughly 20cm wide.
  2. Decorate your flower in any way you wish.
  3. Cut out your flower.
  4. Fix the bottle top to the middle of your flower using glue or sticky tape.
  5. Use a hole punch to make a hole at the edge of each petal of your flower.
  6. Cut five pieces of string or wool, each roughly 40cm long.
  7. Tie the five pieces of string together at one end.
  8. Turn your flower over and thread a piece of string through each hole, and tie the five pieces of string together.
  9. Tie an additional piece of string, or wool, to the knot.
  10. Hang your butterfly feeder in a sunny, but sheltered, spot outside.
  11. Mix together sugar and water, or take a small piece of overripe fruit (e.g. orange or banana), and put it in the bottle lid.

Watch to see any butterflies, or other insects, that visit your feeder. You could investigate which foods different species prefer.

Please tell us about your butterfly feeders and investigations. We would love to see photos of them. Contact us or email at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk.

Make a pitfall trap

Try out a new technique for finding insects with HOPE Learning Officer, Kate.

Have you found any interesting insects lately?  Along with the other HOPE Learning Officers, I have been out and about in Oxfordshire schools where we have found some fantastic insects.  Among my recent favourites is the thick-legged flower beetle, Oedemera nobilis

These beautiful beetles are distinctive with their stunning emerald-green colour and their chunky thighs which are seen only in the males.   We have also found lots of varied species of ladybird including cream spot, 14-spot and eyed ladybirds. Generally, we collect insects using sweep nets and beating trays but, of course, you might be lucky enough to find some interesting insects just by looking in the right places.  Under stones, logs, leaves, in amongst long grass or on flowers are all excellent places to start.  Insects, however, are very good at hiding so why not make a pitfall trap? This can be a great way to find a range of insects, particularly ground beetles.

Here are the written instructions.

You will need: 

  • A small pot such as a clean yoghurt pot
  • A trowel for digging
  • A few stones
  • A small piece of wood or a flat stone to act as a rain cover

What to do:

  1. Find a good spot for your trap on level ground, amongst vegetation.
  2. Dig a hole big enough to sink your pot so that it is completely level with the ground.
  3. Place the pot into the hole. You can put a few leaves, small stones and twigs in the pot to make any insects you catch feel at home.
  4. Build a cover over the trap by placing stones around the pot and resting a flat stone or piece of wood on top.  Make sure there is enough space for insects to crawl under.  This will stop the pot filling with water if it rains.
  5. Wait for a few hours or, better still, overnight.
  6. When you are ready, empty your pot carefully into a tray so you can see what has fallen in.  Take photos so that you can have a go at identifying what you have caught.
  7. Remember to check your pitfall trap every day and return any creatures carefully to a sheltered spot in vegetation.

We would love to know what you find! Let us know by commenting below or by using the Contact Us page.  Happy insect collecting!

Cartooning with Chris

Here at Crunchy on the Outside we love insects and we also love cartoons. What could be better, then, than cartoon insects?!

In this video Chris Jarvis shows us how to draw a mighty dung beetle called the Minotaur Beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus) complete with its own ball of dung!

Minotaur beetles grow to about 2cm in length and can be seen between September and July. They live in grassland and heathland with sandy soils. They feed on rabbit droppings and other dung (yum!) which they roll into balls and bury them in nests which can be over a metre deep underground. Male beetles may defend these nests using their long horns. The females lay their eggs in these nests. The eggs then hatch and the larvae feed on the tasty dung!

Watch the video carefully and you will see that Chris has included many of the key features of this fascinating beetle. He has deliberately left one insect feature out of his drawing. Can you spot what is missing? Here’s a clue: they help insects sense their environment.

Let us know what you think is missing by commenting below, or sending us a message using the Contact Us page. We’d also love to see you own cartoon insects!

Your Insect Jokes

A few weeks ago we asked for your insect jokes in our post ‘Why did the insect cross the road?’ and you didn’t disappoint us! Here is our top ten selection of the best of your jokes, including those you sent to us online, or that we heard on our visits to schools.

I have a joke about fireflies that most people say is brilliant! alyiakerenina

What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk! Year 3 Great Horwood School

Why are entomologists like spies? They’re always looking for bugs! Anonymous

Why did the boy throw butter into the air? He wanted to see butterfly! Year 4 Bearbrook Primary School

Where do you take a sick hornet? Waspital! anonymous

How do fire flies start a race? Ready, steady, glow! Year 4 Cadmore End Primary School

What is red and black and lives underwater? A ladybird in a submarine! Anonymous

What happened to the Queen bee when she kissed a frog? She broke out in hives! Kerri

Which insect is best with numbers? An account-ant! Anonymous

What do you say to a naughty bumble bee? Bee-hive yourself! Year 5 Thameside Primary School

Think you can do better? We’d love to hear more jokes. Just enter them in the comments below, or send them using the form on the Contact Us page.

Cinnabar moth on the road

Why did the insect cross the road?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love a good joke, or even the odd bad joke. I am now on the lookout for new insect jokes. This is where you come in. We want to hear your insect jokes, both ones that you have heard and ones that you have created yourselves. Here are a few ideas and examples to get you started and in the zone:

Traditional Jokes

There are some jokes that have been around for a while. Most people know the original form, and enjoy making up new variations of those same jokes. Here are some insect versions of popular traditional jokes:

Examples of Traditional Jokes (Knock Knock! Who’s there? Abby! Abby who? A bee just stung me; Why did the insect cross the road? To get away from the pesti-side; Doctor Doctor. I keep seeing an insect buzzing about my head! Don’t worry! It’s just a bug that’s going around.)

Puns

Many jokes rely on puns, some clever, some less so. A pun is a play-on-words, and makes use of different possible meanings of the same, or similar, words. To illustrate this I will tell you about some of my insect puns:

They are un-bee-lieveable. I hope they are not fly-ing over your head. Some people find them annoying. Do they bug you?

As you can see you can drop them into general conversation, they can be incorporated into a story or they can form the punchline of your joke:

Joke with a pun as the punchline (What is a grasshopper’s favourite sport? Cricket)

Another word for pun is paronomasia, though this term is a little too pun-usual for my taste.

One liners

A one liner is a joke that is made up of just one line or sometimes even just one sentence. You have to listen closely, or you may miss the punchline. You may not even realise that the person is telling a joke until they have finished:

I saw a fantastic film about a really large insect. It was XL ant!

No doubt you can tell better insect jokes than the ones above. Please share them with us in the comments below.

Arctic Pollinator Watch

Become an arctic pollination investigator without even putting your coat on! Scientists investing pollinating insects in the arctic need your help. By spotting pollinators in images taken by remote cameras, you can help teach a computer system how to identify these insects which are vital to arctic ecosystems.

Bees, butterflies, beetles and many other insects are pollinators. Image credit – Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

Insects are important pollinators all over the world, including the arctic region around the North Pole. By moving pollen from flower to flower, insects enable new seeds and fruits to form. These seeds will grow to become the next generation of plants. Without pollinators, many species of plant would die out because there would be no young plants to replace the old ones.

The Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University in Denmark have set up time-lapse cameras at various arctic locations. For the past three years, these cameras have gathered thousands of pictures of flowers. It would take an enormously long time for humans to locate and identify pollinators in these pictures, so the researchers now want to train a computer to do it. A computer has already identified pictures that include flowers (although it may not always get tis right). The researchers need your help spotting any pollinators that may have visited the flowers in these pictures.

Become a ‘polliwatcher’ on the Pollinator watch website

You can join the project by visiting the Pollinator Watch pages of the Zooniverse website. You can then click ‘Learn more’ to read more about the project and the researchers, or ‘Get started’ to start hunting for pollinators. There is a short tutorial to help you learn how to spot the insects, and then you can hunt through as many pictures as you like.

You don’t need to register with the site to take part but if you want to, make sure that an adult gives permission. Signing in means you can keep up to date with the project and you will get credited if you find something special!

Don’t forget to let us know how you get on by sending us a message on the Contact Us page.