In a previous blog, I outlined natural ways to rid your backyard of the pesky Texas bugs that can really take a bite out of your family fun-in-the-sun time. However, in general, children are fascinated by bugs and it’s important not to pass on an “all bugs are bad attitude,” because it is far from the truth. Some of my favorite times in our backyard involve playing with my son and learning all about the creepy crawlies that call it home.
So in this blog, I am going to list a few bugs you might find in your Texas yard with a few talking points to start a conversation with your child on each one.
Rolly pollies can be found under every rock, old branch, and unused toy that occupies our yard. Their name comes from their tendency to roll into a ball when they feel threatened.
Talking points with your child: They are technically crustaceans, not insects, and are more related to a shrimp than a beetle. Can you see any similarities between a rolly pollie and a shrimp or a crab? What differences do you see between them and a beetle?
Rolly pollies also have some interesting bodily functions (wait for it): they don’t urinate; they eat their own poop; and can drink through, well, a rather interesting place. Just those three facts alone should show a child that even something very common can still be very special in its own way. In this case, I don’t think I need to list any questions, they will likely happen naturally!!
I’m fascinated with spiders, it’s just that I really wish they wouldn’t dangle above my head in the living room or weave their webs for me to walk through as I go to my car in the morning. All that being said, I absolutely love watching them from a distance, they are quite astonishing creatures when you step back a bit. Orb weavers are very common in Texas and they are named after the web they weave, which is usually circular in shape. If you see a beautiful circular web in your garden, it is likely one of these is its creator. These spiders are often very striking to look at, so take out your magnifying glass and raise an arachnophile not an arachnophobe.
Talking points with your child: Astonishingly, many orb-weavers eat their own web at the end of each evening, only to start a new one afresh the next day. Why might they do this? Some orb-weavers don’t even weave a web! Why? How could they catch their prey?
I love watching the dragonflies buzz around our backyard. They are so graceful and they are eating all the mosquitoes that would otherwise make it their life’s mission to bite my family. Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve several hundreds of millions of years ago…let’s say that again…several hundreds of millions of years ago… so clearly they are very well adapted to survival.
Talking points with your child: Dragonflies have survived several large extinction events, such as the one that killed many of the dinosaurs. Why is that? One dragonfly ancestor is known to have had a wingspan of around 26 inches. Measure it out and compare to what you see in your garden. Can you think of any reasons why it grew so large?
Lady beetles, also known as Ladybugs or Ladybirds (my wife uses the latter term), are one of the most universally well-loved bugs I can think of. Their typical red color, with black spots makes them easy to recognize by all. Ladybugs are actually predators and they lay their eggs close to aphid colonies, their primary food source. The larvae can eat their body weight in aphids – making them a great natural pest control.
Talking points with your child: Ladybug larvae look dramatically different from the adults. Why? What happens as they grow? Sometimes the larvae are even bigger than the adults. Why?