Leaf Rollers .. an Update

When weren’t successful hunting leaf rollers and miners when we had gone on our nature outings.  As luck would have it, when we weren’t looking for them … that is when we find them.

First … when I was on a run and the kids were at Enrichment Day … I observed one and immediately planned to bring  it back with me. I wasn’t sure how to ensure the little critter didn’t fall out of his roll while I ran but I opted to continue my run and collect the specimen on my return.  Fortunately, I observed a plastic bag the wind had blown up against a fence and I thereby picked it up.  I then carefully collected the leaf home and hopefully, its inhabitant on my return loop.

Sweetie’s journal entry shown in left photo, on top.  Buddy’s entry is on the bottom as well as the photo on the right.

When I shared my discovery with the kids later that afternoon, they were overjoyed.  They ran to their journals and immediately got started on sketching the leaf and whatever surprise might be inside.  They were amazed by the tiny little “stitches” as they referred to the silk thread the insect had used to ensure it’s efforts weren’t wasted.  We they unrolled the leaf, we found lots of frass (caterpillar poop) and to our joy, a tiny little caterpillar no longer than 1cm.  Sadly, he had perished.

A week later, we were on a nature outing with our new Roots & Shoots group and low and behold, leaf rollers were everywhere.  It was a delight that now we were able to share our knowledge with others.

 How many rolled leaves do you see?

 Buddy reveals the frass inide one of the rolled leaves .. evidence of it’s former inhabitant.

Unfortunately, of all the leaves we unrolled (just one a piece), none had critters within.  It was a remarkable day though … as you’ll discover in followup posts … we all made many wonderful discoveries. 

Leaf-Miners & Rollers :: Nature Study

When I discovered that one of the Outdoor Hour Challenges this month is Leaf-Miners and Rollers, I was delighted.  I love insects and enjoy sharing my knowledge with others, particularly my munchkins.  This time around … I was pleased when my daughter asked me a question that allowed me to introduce her to using a dichotomous key.  I’ll come back to that, but let me first set the stage.

After following Barb’s wonderful suggestions for Inside Prep Work, we went outside with the intention of looking for and observing insects.  Coincidentally, we walked about in two locations … first on the coast when we were visiting the grandparents and second, when we returned home to Northern California.  Unfortunately, I was not aware of any of the suggested plants in either area so we had to make do with a hunt of sorts.  At home, we do have many species of oaks but weren’t successful finding leaf-miners at work.

As suggested by Barb, we examined various leaves and looked for anything that had damaged the leaves. We found evidence on some blackberry leaves of what may have been leaf-miners, but we are not certain.  We also observed numerous leaves with leaf margins chewed away by insects.  In an apple tree, we observed a ripe apple but upon picking it, discovered nearly 1/3 of it had been pecked away by birds (it was too high for deer).

We are in the midst of a GEMS unit, Investigating Artifacts, so we also collected numerous natural objects.  We thereby picked a few leaves that had evidence of insects and brought our collections back to the house for further investigation.  We spent a little time sorting our collection into different categories as a part of the Artifacts unit (leaves/not leaves, seeds/not seeds, green/not green, etc.) and then proceeded with our OHC challenge on leaf-miners and leaf-rollers.

I explained that my expectation for our journal entry was to illustrate 2-3 specimens of their choice.  I should have asked them to write a few words about our quest as well and/or to write a few facts about what they chose to draw … note to self for next time.  I was very impressed with how careful each one was with their drawings, though.  They both took the time to do their best and for that I am thankful.

While we were journaling,  however, a little critter came out amongst the leaf litter to make our acquaintance.  He observed us for a long time and seemingly, enjoyed the attention because he posed for a long time while in turn observed him.  He even allowed us to sketch him and was kind enough not to wiggle about … the perfect model!  🙂

As we were sketching, Sweetie asked me what kind of bug he was.  I explained that he belonged to the order of insects called Hemiptera or true bugs.  This is when she posed her question, “How do you know, Mom?  How can you tell?”

I thereby retrieved the dichotomous key that I had used for years in the classroom.  It was the perfect companion lesson to the discussion we had had just moments before when we were sorting our collection into different categories.  I walked through the key with her, allowing her to discover for herself what characteristics our little insect friend had that classified him as Hemiptera.  She was so interested in the key that she then asked if she could make one of her own for her journal.  What a great idea!!

I am linking this up at Handbook of Nature Study.