Spring is in full swing here in California. We have been spotting birds and bugs in our neighborhood. The flowers are in bloom. It’s the perfect time for our annual Ladybug Habitat activity.
I love this activity because it offers some wonderful learning opportunities. The kids learn about insects by observing them first hand. They practice compassion while caring for their ladybug friends and eventually releasing them into the wild. Throughout the activity, they gain an appreciation for our natural world.
Make Your Own Ladybug Habitat
To make your ladybug habitat you’ll need:
- Ladybugs. You can purchase them at your local garden store.
- A home for you ladybugs. This year we used our Butterfly Garden (affiliate link). In the past I’ve used a small fish tank with a screen over the top. Whatever you use, make sure there is air for the ladybugs but that it is tightly sealed.
- Leaves, twigs, and other plant materials your ladybugs may enjoy. If you have aphids in your garden, all the better!
Once you’ve collected your materials, follow these steps to set up your habitat.
- When you get home with your ladybugs, place them in the fridge for a couple of hours. Don’t worry, a little cold wont hurt them. It will just slow them down and make it much easier to get them into their home!
- In the meantime, put some leaves and fresh plant matter in your ladybug home.
- Soak a few raisins in a dish of water.
- When the ladybugs are nice and cool, gently pour them into their home. The lid of their container usually has a little cotton ball with some kind of food on it for them. Place the lid in their home as well.
- Add the soaked raisins to the habitat and fasten the lid.
Observing Your Ladybugs
Now, it’s time for some observation. The ladybugs will take a little while to wake up. Keep an eye on them throughout the day. When are they active? When do they rest? Do they all have spots? What do they like to do?
Encourage your kids to take notes about your observations. Take some time to observe them together each day.
Caring for Your Ladybugs
This is a great opportunity to teach children respect for living things – no matter how small. Invite your kids to help care for the ladybugs. Remember to demonstrate how to treat the ladybugs gently.
To care for your ladybugs, there are few things you’ll need to do on a daily basis:
- Give the ladybugs fresh soaked raisins.
- Put some fresh plant matter in their cage.
- Provide water for your ladybugs. We use an eye dropper to drip little bits of water on the butterfly garden. The kids really enjoy watching the ladybugs gather around the water drops for a drink. You can also put wet plant matter or a wet paper towel in the cage.
One more important tip I learned the hard way: only open the cage early in the morning or late in the evening when the ladybugs are inactive. If you open the cage when the ladybugs are active, you’ll have a ladybug volcano on your hands!
Releasing Your Ladybugs
After a week or two, it’s time to release your ladybugs. To encourage them to stick around, choose a time either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it is cool and the sun is low. Watering your garden first can also help.
Spend a little time with your ladybug friends before they fly away. Enjoy the tickle of their little feet, get a good close look and say your goodbyes. Stay close to ensure the children are gentle with the ladybugs. Toddlers have a really hard time not pinching the ladybugs too hard. Demonstrating how to let one crawl on your finger can help.
Over the years, I’ve seen kids covered in ladybugs from head to toe and loving it. I’ve also seen kids overwhelmed by the swarm of bugs. Allow your kids to choose how up close and personal they want to get with the ladybugs.
Invite kids who don’t want ladybugs on their body to watch from a shady spot while the ladybugs fly away. It can be a beautiful sight to see!
Want to Know More About Ladybugs?
Here are a few fun facts.
- Ladybugs have sticky feet to help them climb.
- There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs in the world and they come in a few different colors.
- Ladybugs can beat their wings 85 times per second.
- As they age, a ladybug’s spots will fade.
- Ladybug larvae resemble tiny alligators.