August 9, 2013
Insects are some of the most diverse, abundant and ecologically important organisms on the planet. It may not surprise you that insects can be found just about anywhere, but the quantities in which they appear will probably astound you.
This summer, “sweep netting” became a new favorite activity to do with kids visiting Hallam Lake for day camp or drop-in classes. It is very simple and gives participants a hands-on and up-close look at the abundance and diversity of insects in a small area. By sweeping a canvas net back and forth in tall grass we are able to catch and examine nearly every insect that makes its home there.
After we transfer the contents of the canvas net onto a white sheet kids can gather around with magnifying glasses to inspect what we have caught.
In one instance we caught thousands of leafhoppers (a small type of true bug), planthoppers, shield bugs, aphids, grasshoppers, flies, bees, tiny wasps, damselflies, caterpillars, and more. Kids (and adults) love to be able to look at the bugs up close, try to identify specific species, and learn why these bugs are important to our ecosystem.
One charismatic bug was this female Melanoplus bivittatus, a common find around Hallam Lake in July. They are prevalent throughout Colorado and one of the largest species in the Melanoplinae sub-family. They get their name, bivittatus, from the two stripes they have when viewed from above.
When we’re done we take the sheet back to the meadow and shake it out so that the bugs can go back to being bugs!
~ Rick Levy, Summer Naturalist