Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spiders, Bugs and Creepy Crawlies. Oh MY!

These crafts are pretty simple but amazingly adaptable at the same time.  They also offer a TON of learning opportunities to the young crafter wanting to learn more about insects and arachnids. 

If you are hoping to do this craft along with a unit including reading and other activities about "creepy crawlies", click the link for a list of resources you might want to check out.  You might also enjoy trying an upside down hike as one of the activities you do.

To make the basic body of your insects you will need to begin with egg cartons.  An egg carton that used to hold a dozen eggs will make four insect bodies.

Additional Materials:

Glue (sometimes hot glue really works best)
pipe cleaners
paint in the colors for your species
single hole punch
your imagination

Basic Body:

  1. I like to start out with a black background body (or whatever color is most appropriate for the bug being created) and pre-paint the inside and the outside of the cup portion of the egg carton black before I cut it all apart.  It is just quicker and easier this way.  A little of the egg carton color will show through when you cut it apart, but this can be painted later (or you can not worry about it - its a craft for kids, if it doesn't bother them, don't let it bother you).  If you have a kid who does want this part painted - they can go for it! 
  2. Cut the cups apart so you have sets of three for as many insects as you will be making.  If you plan on making beetles later, (lady bug) you will need at least another one additional cup for each beetle.  One egg carton for a dozen eggs will make three beetles.
  3. Use the hole punch to cut three holes in each side of the central "bump" or thorax of the egg carton trio near the bottom margin of the cup (top edge when it held eggs).
  4. Use the hole punch to cut two holes as high in the head as you can (bottom of the cup when it held eggs) in order to add antennae later.


Use hot glue to make the three bumps curve together a little.  

Use the hole punch to punch a single hole near the bottom and frontal center of the head end of your "butterfly."
Paint your butterfly body (or let your kids paint the body) with any additional color or markings specific to your tastes or the species you have chosen to study.
Take a piece of paper in the shape of your species' wings and paint one half of the wings as desired (with the young ones, I just give them the right colors and let them use smash paint.  Then I cut the wings out based on where the paint goes.  With older kids that are really studying a specific species, they might need to be more particular).
Make sure your kids understand that the butterfly has four wings.  In fact, most species of insects have four wings or two wings and a pair of wings that time and the process of evolution have modified in some fashion.
Carefully fold the wings in half to create mirror image wings.  Allow for drying time, then paint the other side of the wings.  Butterflies hold their wings up and hide the brilliant colors of their wings when they land.  One side of the wings is likely a more muted color.  This will be the side that is glued downward when the time comes.  Moths always hold their wings in more of a tent like fashion when not flying.  The characteristic coloring will be the upper side of the wing for them as well.
Thread three pipe cleaners through the six holes in the thorax (central bump) to create six legs. 

Thread a pipe cleaner that is about 3-4 inches long through the hole you made for the "mouth" in the head cup and glue it into place.  After it has dried, curve the cleaner into a spiral as this is how butterflies hold their proboscis (long mouth part used like a straw) when they are not eating.

Cut a final pipe cleaner in half and thread it through the holes at the top of the head and affix with glue.

Glue the wings onto the thorax so the brightly colored side is up and the more drab side is down.

If you'd like to add eyes, Lepidoptera have two compound eyes - google eyes won't really represent this, but as a craft, kids think they are fun.  If this is to be a more serious study for older kids, you might come up with something faceted like tiny fake gems to do the trick.

Review the names and numbers of all the parts of the butterfly.  Antennae (2), Proboscis (1), Head, Legs (6), Thorax, Wings (4) and Abdomen.

You might also review that, in general with insects, the head is for sensing, the thorax is for moving, and the abdomen is for a lot of the things that happen in our own torsos like respiration (insects have little holes in the sides of their abdomens called spiracles for this purpose), digestion, reproduction and blood circulation.

Enjoy your butterfly.

How to create an Arachnid:

Follow the same instructions as those for the Basic Body for both ant and arachnid - however, the arachnid will only have two egg cups and will need four sets of two opposing holes in one of the bumps to make space for eight legs.

Add some google eyes and all of a sudden, they're kind of cute.

Alterations to Step Four:

Insects have antennae on their first body section, or head so you punched two holes in the head section for your insect.  Arachnids do not have antennae, but they all have chelicerae and pedipalps.  The chelicerae are two short appendages that come out near their mouth and are used for biting.  The pedipalps are longer and also near the mouth and are used for shoving food into the spider's mouth.  use a hole punch to cut two holes near where the spiders "mouth" would be and help your kids thread in one pipe cleaner cut down in size to about an inch and another to about two inches so the chelicerae are closest to the middle, and the longer pedipalps are right next to them toward the outside of the body.  Apply Glue.

Alterations to Step 5:

Insect eyes are actually compound eyes and won't look anything like googly eyes, but somehow using googly eyes is just fun.  Insects will have two on their heads.  Arachnids will have eight eyes surrounding the tops of the cephalothorax as though the spider has a crown of eyes.  Four of the eyes will aim forward, two more toward the back and the remaining two will face opposite each other out to the sides on either side of the cephalathorax.
Obviously, for the arachnid, you need not add wings, if you wish to extend the abdominal "bump" into a scorpion tail, scorpions are arachnids as well.

Things that are Special about the Beetle:

Like most other insects, beetles actually have four wings.  The special thing about the beetle is that the forward set of wings have specialized and become a hard protective covering.  The wings used for flying fold underneath the forward wings.

This beetle is ready to fly with his rear wings out and forward wings up.

Beetle shapes can also be pretty unique.  You might need to be fairly creative to give it the right shape depending on the species you create.  I chose to leave mine unfinished above to allow you the room to imagine your own completed beetle.  

For adaptations for other orders of Insects:

Have your students compare the different types of insects. What is similar? What is different?  Creating a table with a column for each of the orders of insects you will study, or for each of the classes of arthropods you will be taking a look at with a row for comparable characteristics is a great idea to help kids practice tracking data as well as using and constructing tables.

Some Suggestions for easy adaptations:

  1. Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets) - in case you would like to give this one a try, you can use the photo on the home page for the creepy crawly unit as a beginning model.  The cricket shown, still needs wings and a mandible, but it should give you the basic idea.  Use the basic model for an ant, but make the last set of legs with one pipe cleaner each and bend them to look like grasshopper legs.  You should know, grasshoppers have short antennae and crickets have very long antennae so if you will be making a grasshopper, use one pipe cleaner for both antennae.
  2. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) - Model a butterfly.  You can also keep the cups in the normal egg-holding position, paint them green and plant grass in them to make a nice hairy caterpillar.  If you want your plant caterpillar to be a lesson in characteristics of caterpillars, you'll want to paint on the legs, but leg number can be dependant upon the species you are emulating.  MOST will have three sets of true legs and five prolegs on the abdomen making the total sixteen, but some don't have any legs and for some species the number can change depending upon the stage of the caterpillar.  Mostly, the planted caterpillar is just a fun little science craft and a chance to grow a little green in the windowsill.
  3. Diptera (flies and mosquitoes) - The model built and shown below is for a fly.  For a proboscis, the fly got a sliver of sponge.  To alter it to make a mosquito, simply replace the sponge proboscis with a piece of straw or a narrow cone made with a twist of paper
  4. Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, and bees) For bees, you'll want to copy the fly's wing style (including the set of two little knobs for the residual secondary wings) and add a "stinger" to the abdomen.  For ants (at least wingless, worker ants anyway) use the link on the word "ants" in number six.
  5. Isoptera (termites) - These guys look a lot alike, but the connection between the abdomen and thorax is thicker.  
This Bee is unfinished, but you can see his wing knobs that remain behind the forward set of wings.

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