What Backyard Bug am I? July 26 2014 by Rhyan Arthur, comments

A backyard bug hunt is a fantastic summer learning activity - it gets the kids outside, requires next to zero planning, and offers several opportunities for further learning. Armed with nets, a plastic container, and the iPad, my kids and I set out to capture a few of our local bugs. After catching the bugs we took pictures and went to www.insectsofalberta.com to try and identify them.

Innornate Ringlet butterfly sitting on a child's finger


This little brown beauty was very easy to catch, and quite pretty once you got close enough for a good look.  We tentatively identified it as an Inornate Ringlet - a common butterfly species found throughout North America. My son was tickled that it sat long enough on his finger for me to take a picture (not all bugs were this cooperative).

Mourning Cloak caterpillar munching on a leaf


We found this little guy munching on our neighbours' elm trees. Large caterpillars like this are a rare sight in our yard so this was an exciting catch. With the spines and red patches on its back we thought it looked like a Mourning Cloak Caterpillar.  Mourning Cloaks are found throughout the world, and grow up to be large, striking black butterflies with bright blue wing spots.

Cherry-Faced Meadowhawk dragonfly


These large red dragonflies are a common sight in our yard. We thought this may have been a Cherry-Faced Meadowhawk, which is common in Alberta, but it's difficult to be sure with a quick visual inspection. We learned that nearly all of a dragonfly's head is eye, and they can see in every direction except directly behind them. Apparently in the Paleozoic era dragonflies grew to a monster size because of the high oxygen content in the atmosphere. Yikes!

Our bug hunt was a lot of fun and we ALL learned something new about insects. I don't expect the kids to remember the names of the bugs we identified, but I hope they do remember how easy and interesting it is to dig-deeper into the things we see in our everyday environment.