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    Home / Science projects / Beetle Science Projects
    • Beetle Science Projects

      Beetle Science Projects

      Flashing Fireflies

      Fireflies (or lightning bugs) are not really flies at all - they are a type of beetle. If you live on the eastern side of the U.S. where it is warm and humid, there is a good chance that these bugs will be out at night during the summer. Try catching a few and observing them up close. You can stay in your own backyard, or go to a park or field nearby. Bring an adult to help you.

      Note: If there are no fireflies where you live, you can observe beetles during the day. Use a jar with a paper towel secured with a rubber band as a Beetle Viewer, and hunt for beetles in grass, on trees, or crawling in dirt. Release the beetle back where you found it after you have looked closely using a magnifying glass.

      1. As it starts to get dark wait and watch for little sparks of light that fireflies make. When you see quite a few of these insects hold up a glass jar and gently cup your hand around one to catch it and put it in the jar. Quickly put a paper towel or a thin piece of woven cloth over the opening and hold it in place with your hand so the firefly cannot escape.
      2. Catch several insects this way, until the jar has a faint glow. Keep the paper towel over the opening of the jar and wrap a rubber band around it. This way the fireflies will have plenty of air.
      3. Notice the different flashing patterns. How often do these bugs flash? How long is the flash? Do you think there are multiple kinds of fireflies in the jar, or just one? Count how many flashes there are in 5 minutes, how long the flashes are (in seconds) and how many seconds between the flashes. Have your adult helper write down your observations.
      4. When you are done observing the lightning bugs, remove the paper towel, and let them go.

      What Happened:

      Different kinds of lightning bugs have different flash patterns. Some blinked and winked quickly, while others lit up fewer times, but for longer. Are there many different types of lightning bugs where you live, do you think? Try this experiment on a different night and see what happens. Beetles are fascinating to observe - and there are so many different kinds all around us!

      Beetle Body Parts

      Use this worksheet to make a beetle with moving parts! You will also need 4 brass brads and an adult to help you. You might already know that beetles have three body parts and six legs. They also have some other special features that make them different from other insects. The beetle on the worksheet is a Darkling beetle, but all beetles have similar body parts and the same unique features.

      1. Cut out all the pieces, staying close to the black lines. You might need an adult to help with this part. It's okay to leave white space around the small parts like the antennae and legs when you cut them out.
      2. Find the head. It looks like a circle with two squiggly lines (these are the antennae) on the top. Next find the thorax, which is the middle body section of all insects, and has six beetle legs on it. Notice the black dots that are marked with numbers.
      3. Have an adult poke a brad through the black dot (1) on the head, and then through the black dot (1) on top of the thorax. Turn the paper over, and close the brad by bending one end one way, and the other end the opposite way.
      4. Find the abdomen. This is the last part of the body, and has different segments or sections. Have your helper poke a brad through the very bottom dot on the thorax (2), and then the top dot on the abdomen (2). Close the brad to keep the layers together.
      5. Match up the wings to the beetle's body (3), making sure that the long pair of wings is on the bottom, and the short striped pair is on top. Have an adult poke a brad through all three layers of paper on the right and left sides of the beetle. Close the ends of both brads.
      6. Make your Darkling beetle fly or crawl by moving its wing pairs out or in and up and down.

      What Happened:

      Most flying insects have one pair of wings (butterflies have two - can you think of any others?). All beetles have two pairs of wings. The first pair is very thin, which works great for flying, but can be broken easily. That is why beetles also have a second pair of wings that is hard and thick, and makes a great protection for this fascinating bug. The inside wings actually fold up inside the tough outside wings on the beetle's abdomen when it is not flying. Some beetles don't use their wings very much. The Darkling beetle only uses its wings when it needs to fly long distances to find food.

      Another feature of the Darkling beetle is on its head. Do you see the two short things sticking out near the antennae? These are part of the insect's jaw, called a mandible. You might have also noticed the tiny eyes on the Darkling beetle. Beetles have small compound eyes that are usually at the very front of their head. Beetles can see directly in front and above without moving their head. They use their antennae to help sense what is on each side of them.

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    By: Jean Gantt
    Date: Jun 23, 2015

    If I give you my email, will you continue to send me these great articles. Such simple learning projects!  Love it!

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