‘A Bugs Life’ has to be one of my all-time favourite Disney movies, but there my fondness of creepy-crawlies ends. I’m a feet-up-on-the-sofa-if-a-spider-scurries-past, run-swatting-and-flailing-if-a-wasp-buzzes-around, squeal-if-a-worm-touches-my-gardening-hand kind of person. But, I realise I’ve got to get a grip to allow my kids at least a fighting chance of not growing up with similar phobias and embarrassing themselves with ridiculous wasp-evasion dancing at picnics.
In fact as a parent it’s up to me to teach my kids what good the bugs are doing in the garden and how their presence affects the ecosystem by attracting birds and other wildlife. So I’m encouraging my little ones to garden; to get dirt under their fingernails; to make friends with the worms. They know that bees are vital for our plants’ and flowers’ survival; worms return valuable nutrients to the soil; ladybugs eat aphids that would otherwise destroy our plants. They’re learning which plants will attract the useful insects. I’m teaching them that insects are living creatures that should not be squished or stomped on.
On a recent trip to our local garden centre we were shown some fun ways kids can get more familiar with bugs:
Making a Bug Hotel
Fill a flower pot with short lengths of bamboo, leaves, twigs, beech nuts and the like and leave it on its side in the garden. It doesn’t have to be neat – bugs aren’t fussy about the interior design – as long as there are lots of nooks and crannies to hide in. The hollow bamboo canes are the perfect habitat for beneficial insects such as spiders, ladybirds, lacewings and even bees laying eggs. It only takes a few days for the bugs to move in, then it’s time to take a deep breath (and a back seat) as the kids investigate their new tenants with a magnifying glass.
Making a Worm Castle
Use a large mayo jar with a few pebbles at the bottom and fill it with about 10cm of moist soil. Carefully add a couple of earthworms and give them some ‘worm food’ such as apple peel, eggshells, and tea bags. Covering the jar with black paper keeps out the light and gives it an underground feel. Your little ones will enjoy observing the worms as they go about their business tunnelling, eating and making worm casts.
So far it’s going well: my four-year-old is happy to collect that invading spider and put it outside; my seven-year-old is keenly investigating her bug hotel guests. And I’ve learned that the much-maligned wasp is actually quite a useful garden visitor. In addition to eating pests like caterpillars and aphids, he plays a part in pollination as he buzzes from flower to flower. He also recycles dead wood and often buries it thus returning valuable nutrients to the soil.
Who knows, in time I may even convince myself that crawlies aren’t so ‘creepy’ after all. Then again…what was that moving in the corner?
Article by: Lorraine Regel