Using sweep nets, the youngsters sample and compare the insects living in two different areas: a managed lawn and a weedy area.
- Site: adjacent managed and an unmanaged areas with abundant insect life
- Safety: Be aware of poisonous or thorny plants
- Prep: Check the area beforehand to be sure that the students will find plenty of critters. Obtain sweep nets for each person or team of two, plastic bags, rubber bands, OBIS Lawn Guide and/or other guide books, hand lenses or bug boxes, vials, plant cards, and tape
How does the diversity of plants in an area affect the diversity and number of animals that you will find there?
- The techniques of collecting and sampling organisms.
- Investigate and compare the animal diversity in the two areas.
- Consider how the types of plants in an area influence the types of critters that live there.
The diversity of plants growing in a site affects the number of different kinds of animals living there. An unmanaged area with a variety of plants and grasses is likely to support a greater diversity of animals than a managed grassy area. In this activity, the participants collect animals, usually insects, from these two types of sites and compare the number and variety. A follow-up activity includes identifying the critters that are associated with a particular plant species.
Some insects such as grasshoppers are generalists feeding on several different types of plants. Other insects have evolved in a close relationship with a particular plant species, an example being the monarch caterpillar and butterfly and the milkweed plant. Many plants have developed defense mechanisms such as poisonous sap, bitter chemicals, thorns, hairy leaves, leathery leaves, etc. to deter being eaten. In turn insects have evolved specialized mouthparts, resistance to poisons, and other strategies to circumvent the defense mechanisms of the plants. It is interesting to see what insects the kids will find associated with which plants.
Can you identify the adaptations that will make likely that a certain insect will be associated with a certain plant?
Click on a category for other similar activities.