Outdoor Hour Challenge #27 Bees

Bees on the Lavender

“During many years naturalists have been studying the habits and adaptations of the honeybees, and, as yet, the story of their wonderful ways is not half told. Although we know fairly well what the bees do, yet we have no inkling of the processes which lead to a perfect government and management of the bee community; and even the beginner may discover things never known before about these fascinating little workers.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 391

We have lots of honeybees and bumblebees in our area of California. I love to watch them on my lavender plants and on my other garden flowers. I love to sit and let them buzz up right next to me so I can see them clearly. I have had a sting or two in my life but usually because I stepped on a bee in the grass with bare feet.

“The structure of honeycomb has been for ages admired by mathematicians, who have measured the angles of the cells and demonstrated the accurate manner in which the rhomb-shaped cell changes at its base to a three-faced pyramid; and have proved that, considering the material of construction, honeycomb exemplifies the strongest and most economic structure possible for the storing of liquid contents.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 395

I am fascinated with the geometry of the honeycomb and read with interest the section in the Handbook on honeycombs starting on page 395. Maybe it has something to do with my love for eating honey.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #27
Focus on Insects-Bees

(You may also like to look at the Yellow Jacket and Mud Dauber Challenge.)

1. This week read about bees in the Handbook of Nature Study, pages 384-400. There are sections on leaf-cutter bees, carpenter bees, bumblebees, and honeybees in the Handbook of Nature Study. You may not have every kind of bee in your location but I found the information very interesting and maybe someday I will have the opportunity to observe all the different kinds of bees discussed in the book. Remember our focus right now is on insects so if you don’t find a bee to observe, you can always look for other insects to study.

2. Your 15-20 minutes of outdoor time this week can be spent looking for insects. Make your goal just to get outside in your own backyard and find something to observe with your child. If during that time you find an insect, take as long as you can to describe what it looks like, what it is doing, and then try to come up with some questions to answer later with your Handbook of Nature Study or a field guide. If you find a bee to observe during your nature time or at another time during the week, use the opportunity to relate some facts from your reading in the Handbook of Nature Study.

Honeybee entry (3)

3. Give the opportunity for a nature journal entry. It might be hard to draw a bee from your outdoor time but it would be a great idea to find a photo of a bee online or use the diagram on page 391 to make an entry about bees in your journal. Another idea is to use a notebooking page and fill it in with your thoughts and observations from your Outdoor Hour time.

4. If you are keeping a running list of insects you have observed during this focus period, add the insect’s name to the list
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You can find more insect challenges on the “insect” tab at the top of the website.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

Crazy for Ladybugs: Outdoor Hour Challenge #26

We love ladybugs in our garden. It is as simple as that. They always make me smile when I see them crawling around in the grass or on the rose bushes. Maybe it is the nostalgia of childhood memories that flood in when I see ladybugs….you know, singing *that* song. :)

Here is a link to an entry that I wrote a few months ago on finding a ladybug larva and a ladybug in my garden. This is an example of how taking the time to focus on something different in your own yard leads to a lot of really great information and then satisfaction.
Ladybug Entry

Anyway, we recently observed a different kind of ladybug. I did take photos but now they are missing…hmmmm, it might actually have something to do with the number of photos I take each week. I have a hard time keeping them organized. :)

Anyway, here are some thoughts from the Handbook of Nature Study that I enjoyed:
From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 366:

“The ladybird is a beetle. Its young are very different from the adult in appearance, and feed upon plant lice.”

 

“These little beetles are very common in autumn and may be brought to the schoolroom and passed around in vials for the children to observe. Their larvae may be found on almost any plant infested with plant lice. Plant and all may be brought into the school room and the actions of the larvae noted by the pupils during recess.”

From page 365:

“From our standpoint the ladybird is of great value, for during the larval as well as adult stages, all species except one feed upon those insects which we are glad to be rid of.”

“The ladybird is a clever little creature, even if it does look like a pill, and if you disturb it, it will fold up its legs and drop as if dead, playing possum in a most deceptive manner.”

Here is one of our nature journals.

I don’t usually have to go far during the summer to find a ladybug or some aphids. The boys will point out that I have a ladybug in my hair or there will be one hiding among the weeds on the edges of the garden box. They just seem to go hand in hand with summer gardening.

Want an update on my garden? Here you go! All the photos in this entry are from this week in my garden.

Fading Coneflowers


Green beans growing up the poles in my garden box


My first nasturtium….we must plant more of these next year.


My morning glories are glorious.


Our butterfly bush in blooming…two different colors. Click to see them.

The days are getting shorter again and I can feel autumn nipping at my heels. It won’t be long now…sigh.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #26 Ladybugs and Aphids

This week we will be taking time to read about and look for two different insects that seem to go hand in hand. I know in our garden if I see a ladybug, I will many times, if I look carefully, see some aphids too. Aphids are pretty small but if you get out your hand lens you may find you can see these insects in your flower garden. Look under the leaves.

“Aphids seem to be born to serve as food for other creatures-they are simply little machines for making sap into honeydew, which they produce from the alimentary canal for the delectation of ants; they are, in fact, merely little animated drops of sap on legs.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 352

Wow, that pretty much spells it out. I know that I have read somewhere that ants actually “farm” the aphids and “milk” them for food.

Here are some aphids that I photographed way back last fall. These are rose leaves from my yard and they were really eating them up.


Here are the same aphids above along with an ant so you can compare the size.

Ladybugs are always a welcome sight in our garden and I have learned over the years how beneficial they are.

“The ladybird is a beetle. Its young are very different from the adult in appearance, and feed upon plant lice.”

Have fun this week and remember your overall focus is on insects so if you don’t see any ladybugs and aphids, post your blog entry about what insects you did discover. I look at these challenges as a way to make a community of families who are interested in nature. We all learn from each other. Believe it or not, I feel as if I learn just as much from all your posts as I do from doing the research to come up with the challenges.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #26
Focus on Insects-Ladybugs and Aphids

1. This week read about ladybugs and aphids in the Handbook of Nature Study, pages 364-366 and pages 351-354. Remember our focus right now is on insects so if you don’t find either of these insects to observe, you can always look for other insects to study. If you do your reading, you will be prepared when you next come across these insects.

You may be interested in reading my entry on Red Aphids. 

2. Your 15-20 minutes of outdoor time this week can be spent looking for insects. I know it is still very hot for most of us but if you get out early, even before breakfast, you might be able to enjoy the morning air and a few insects too.

3. Give the opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you need ideas for alternative nature journal activities, please see challenge 2 and challenge 3. You might want to draw the ladybug life cycle or show how ants benefit from aphids by providing them with food. Encourage your child to draw something that interested them from your nature time. When my children were young, I considered a drawing, a date, and a label as a successful nature journal.

Make sure to pull out the Handbook of Nature Study to see if any insects you find are listed and you can read more about it there. If you are keeping a running list of insects you have observed during this focus period, add the insect’s name to the list.