Summer Nature Study-Life cycles

Since part of the reason I decided to start a separate homeschooling blog was to make our portfolio review easier, I have been looking back at things we did earlier in the year. 

Our school year goes from July 1-June 30 so the things we studied over the summer would be part of our 2007/2008 school year.  This summer we spent a good deal of time observing life cycles.  We saw a lot of creatures, some in the wild (if you consider our backyard wild!) and some in captivity.  Here are a few that stood out.

Tomato Horn Worm

We found this really cute tomato horn worm in my parents tomato garden (to give you an idea of his size, those are tomato leaves).

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With some advice from my brother (who had been *raising* hornworms all summer) we made a home for Mr. Horny (whom I did not name).  We learned that THWs prefer tomato leaves to fruit and that they like dirt in their habitats.  We also learned that if there is food near them they won’t leave the area.  You can literally put leaves on a plate and they’ll stay there and eat, not even trying to escape!  We gave Mr. H a jar anyway, to protect him from the cats.  He ate a lot and grew quickly!

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He’s about 4″ long in the picture and is no longer cute, but kind of gross!

Another thing we learned is that THWs pupate underground so we would need to provide him with some dirt to burrow into if we wanted him to transform. We added some to his jar.

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Not long after we added the extra dirt, Mr. H stopped eating.  I was worried he was sick and when I couldn’t find him the next day I thought W had disposed of the corpse before the kids awoke.  Later that day he stuck his head out of the dirt briefly and re-buried himself.  He wasn’t dead, he was pupating!!

After a (long) while, Mr. H emerged.  I thought he would stay under until spring it took him so long to come up, but no.  When he emerged he looked like this:

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He was non too healthy looking, but apparently he lived to fly away (or he got eaten by a bird) because we never saw him after we left him in the raised bed.

Garden Snail

We find a garden snail almost every summer a keep it in a small aquarium for awhile.  this one is actually from a few years ago, but they all look pretty much the same 😉

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The difference this year was our snail laid eggs!  I had a picture of them, but I lost them when someone got ahold of my camera and erased the memory stick 😡 Anyway…this prompted us to do some snail research and discover that snail are hermaphroditic.  Since prior to this point the snail had been named Tim, and then Timmitha when he/she laid eggs, this was interesting information.  The kids then decided to call it Pat :^)=)

We worked very hard to keep the dirt moist and the mama (papa?) snail well fed and waited for the little buggers to hatch.  They did, about 3 weeks after they were laid!  We only caught a glimpse of them before the camouflage kicked in and once all the eggs were gone we placed the cage on it’s side and released the little family into the garden.

Ants and Termites

Again I lost the pictures, but this was pretty cool.

About 10 years ago W and I had a tree taken down in the front yard.  Instead of paying to have the trunk removed we rolled the big logs to the side of the yard and left them there.  Maybe I had an inkling somewhere that I would need a spot for my kid’s nature study?  Hmmmm! At any rate, at least once a year we roll the logs and look under them, see what is living in them, etc.  This summer B decided he wanted to break apart some of the larger logs with his shovel.  As he did so he found all kind of interesting life. 

We ended up observing both an ant colony and a termite colony.  It was cool and kind of gross!  We even saw queens! I’m just really glad they are FAR from the house (and I checked everyones clothing really well before they came in the house!). 

In typical (for our house) fashion we googled ants and termites and come up with some good websites including, but not limited to:

Stranger the Fiction-ants, All About Ants,Termites on Wikipedia,
and (just in case) natural ant repellants.

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