A Prophet-Able Insect Idea for Homeschool

A friend of mine is home-schooling her daughters and asked if I had any ideas for their insect projects. Of course, I thought there must be something suitable right here at Rincon Vitova. So I asked Ron, here at the Bugfarm, what insects are most often used in a classroom situation? He immediately suggested the use of Lacewing larvae or Preying Mantis eggs—both of which are readily available at RVI.
I could see that both of those would be good to use, because, for one, they’re not microscopic in size, and, two, they’re almost mascot-like in the field of bio-control, i.e., both the Lacewing and Mantis adults are easily recognizable by children and adults, so much so that hosting these insects takes on the feel of raising a small pet. At least that’s how it felt for me, when I did a bit of a pre-test project: I chose to house a few Mantis eggs for a while at the RVI office before sending anything off to the home-schoolers.


Now, Mantises eat both beneficials and pests, so they are often sold more for educational value than strict bio-control. So, the Lacewing larvae might have made a better choice. Known as the Aphid Lion, Lacewing larvae are described as little alligators, consuming up to 400 aphids or 11,200 spider mites per individual as well as a variety of other pests, e.g., thrips, whitefly, and moths. So they would have been a good choice, especially for release into a garden. Still, I felt something calming about the thought of releasing the little insect that strikes a prophet’s pose, so I chose the Mantis.

I simply placed a couple of the Mantis eggs in a terrarium, and each week I eagerly anticipated the arrival of the little Mantes or Mantises. I anticipated about a month wait and put a little moisture and plant debris in the terrarium at week four. And, in just over a month, there they were. Each of the Mantis eggs contains 50 -100+ Mantes, so there wasn’t much time to leave the little brood of hatchlings in the terrarium following their emergence. I thought there would be some juvenile stage and an outer transformation into their classically esoteric adult pose, but, there, posed at the tip of my finger before releasing, was a young and fragile baby Mantis, a tiny image of their adult self. We released all of them onto some nearby rose bushes. A note, though, after the initial burst of young Mantises and their release, I’ve kept the eggs for awhile, and there are still a few small groups emerging well into the second month. So, this little insect project keeps on giving opportunities to watch for new emerging life and to care for and release insects over an extended period of time.

At the end of my pre-test project, I am convinced that the Mantises will supply a prophet-able project idea, suitable to both the home-schooled children and their garden. –end June 09 Duke


2 Responses to “A Prophet-Able Insect Idea for Homeschool”

  1. 1 Kathy Brazil August 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Yes, Indeed we recieved two praying mantis egg casings from your company to create a homeschool learning project..My 3 children were quite excited to find the little package in the mailbox…although they were at first afraid to touch the egg casings..we set them very gently in a glass vase and began our watch…weeks passed and simply no action ..then one amazing day the hatching began…My kids were amazed to see the tiny praying mantis “babies” 30 at least in the first hatching and it was interesting to watch them change from their pale brown newborn color, to thier greenish color in a matter of hours. We could not find any outside bugs to feed them so after some intensive viewing we released the new baby bugs into the blackberry bushes and under the fig tree. Careful not to release them into any spider web areas…a day or two passed and the second hatching occurred..more fascination…and once again more releasing of the new bugs..we even sent some over to gramma’s tomato and rosemary patch..a few more days and the second egg casing hatched and my goodness what a wonder to see….alas it came to the end of our bug project with the last praying mantis “babies” being set free..My oldest child drew a picture of the different stages…and some weeks later a full grown praying mantis took residence on our front screen door..we did not think it was one of “ours” yet..as we read they take longer to reach full grown size..but still it was fun to see it and know we had a hand in freeing some of their brothers or sisters into our one acre environment…Thank you “Bugfarm” for helping us to learn and appreciate our fellow bug beings…..

    • 2 Bryce September 9, 2009 at 11:56 am

      Wow. That’s a really beautiful story. Everyone here will be thrilled to read it! Whether as biocontrol or an as educational tool, it’s always great to hear about all the different aspects our bugs branch out to. Thanks for sharing!

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