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A Bug's Life

Public summary: 

Jars of all sorts of horrible house pests: bugs, flies, worms and more!

Jars of all sorts of horrible house pests: bugs, flies, worms and more!
Useful information
Kit List: 

Various insects inside perspex blocks (this used to be insects in jars, but most leaked and got manky so we changed it).
A magnifying glass
Key with descriptions of each insect (below)

Frequency of use: 

*** OVERVIEW ***

Children will look at lots of jars of interesting insects, try to identify them, and learn a few things are each one.

Other things to talk about:
1) What makes the animal a pest?
2) Where does the pest live in a house? How is the pest adapted to the environment in the house?
3) What is the life cycle of the pest?
4) What is the actual problem with having this pest in the house (perceived vs. actual)?
5) Taxonomy

Tips for demonstrating:
1) Always count the total number of insects you have on display before you start demonstrating…make sure that none of these disappear during the day!
2) Ask them to look at their fingernail or a hair under the magnifying glass – this will give them a better concept of scale and show them how much more detail you can see under the magnifying glass!


1) Ask the child to choose a sample on display that looks interesting to them. Then go through the following questions with them:
2) What do you think this is?
3) Where do you think it might live in your house? Why would it like to live there?
4) Do you want this living in your house? Why (not)?
5) Allow them to look at the sample under the magnifying glass.

See explanations for each insect/pest below


Discuss the life cycle of each pest
o Egg
o Larvae (goal = eat and grow!)
o Pupae (undergoes metamorphosis)
o Adult
Discuss Taxonomy


Good website discussing taxonomy:

Key with descriptions for each insect

1) Grain Weevil:
Location = packet of cereal/bird seed/pasta in your food cupboard
Why does it live there? (Source of food)
Lays eggs inside the grain
Do you want these living in you house? Why not? (They eat your food!)
Interesting facts:
o Grain weevils can’t fly…but are tireless walkers
o Live 7-8 months
o You can recognize them by their elongates snout
o When disturbed, they fake death by drawing up their legs close to their body, falling, and remaining silent
o About 4mm long

2) Seed Beetle:
Location = in garden
Why does it live there? (Source of food – lays eggs in certain types of seeds)
Do you want these living in your house? Why? (It depends on what kind of seeds the specific species of seed beetle destroys (i.e. can be used to control weeds by eating their seeds))
Interesting facts:
o More than 900 species
o Size <5mm long

3) Larder Beetle:
Location = cured meats in the kitchen
Why does it live there? (They eat meat and plant material)
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No – they eat your food
o Larvae will bore into wood, cork, or insulation to find a place to pupate
Interesting Facts:
o Length is up to 13mm
o Larvae like the dark
o A female lays 200 eggs in a lifetime
o They spend winter outdoors and come inside in spring to lay eggs
o They are attracted to light and often are found near windows

4) Flour Beetle:
Location = bag of flour in your kitchen
Why does it live there?
o It eats the flour
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No – it eats your food!
o Badly infested flour is characterized by a sharp odor and moldy flavor
Interesting Facts:
o Also known as a bran bug

5) Blowfly
Location = uncovered food in the kitchen
Why does it live there?
o It lays its eggs on uncovered meat and fish (i.e. decaying food in your garbage can)
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o Flies can transmit diseases (such as dysentery)
o Can destroy your food if they lay eggs on meat you are planning to eat
Interesting facts:
o Also known as blue bottles
o Were once used to eat dead tissue and promote healing

6) Aphid:
Location = pot plant
Why does it live there?
o Aphids feed on the plants
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No – they eat/destroy your plants!
Interesting Facts:
o Over 4,000 species of aphid in the world
o The females of many aphid species do not have to mate in order to reproduce and they typically produce live young, rather than eggs
o Ladybugs eat aphids, and therefore are often used to protect your houseplants or garden!
o Signs of an aphid infestation include honeydew or sooty mould on leaves, yellow spots on upper leaf surface, cast skins on leaves, curling of leaves, and distortion of new growth
o eats plants, asexual, live young, predator on ladybirds.

7) Fruit fly:
Location = around your fruit bowl
o Fruit flies feed on fruit
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No – they eat fruit!
Interesting Facts:
o Over 1,500 species of Drosophila in the world
o Useful to biologists (a model species) because they are small and thus take up little lab space, they are easily cultured, they have a short generation time, they are extremely fertile and they have easily observable phenotypes.
o Life cycle of Drosophila is made up of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult
o Eggs are laid in a food source such as a rotting fruit and develop into larvae after about a day.
o used in experiments and lay eggs on fruit

8) Locust:
Location = your garden
Why does it live there?
o It eats your plants
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No – they eat your plants!
Interesting Facts:
o Locusts outbreaks can destroy entire crops of food, which historically has led to famine
o There was a recent plague in West Africa, which led to food shortages because crops were destroyed

9) Wasp:
Location = Garden
o Nest is made up of chewed wood fibres mixed with saliva
o Wasps secrete a chemical to repel ants from the nest
o Adult wasps feed on nectar and sweet fruit, but bring insects and caterpillars to feed the larvae
(Really nice simple diagram showing life cycle of the wasp colony can be found at
o Social animal and females sting

10) Caterpillar:
Location = garden
Why does it live there?
o It feeds on the plants
Do you want these living in your garden? Why not?
o No – it destroys plants

11) Mealworm:
Location = kitchen
Why does it live there?
o Source of food – eats grain
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No! It eats your food.
Interesting facts:
o Not really worms, but larvae of the Darkling Beetle

12) Tick:
Location = on animals (may have seen them on pets, humans can get them too)
Why does it live on animals?
o Animals provide a source of food (blood meals)
Do you want ticks living in you house? Why not?
o Transmit disease such as Lyme disease (affects humans in the UK), ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and tick-borne relapsing fever
Interesting facts:
o 850 species of ticks worldwide
o Can spend 200 days without food/water

13) Flea
Location = on animals (common problem in pets)
Why does it live there?
o Source of food! (blood meal)
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o Fleas can carry diseases
o Fleas are uncomfortable for your pet (very itchy!)
o They can bite humans too
Interesting Facts:
o The Oriental Rat Flea is believed to have caused the black death
o Have two eyes, yet can only see in very bright light
o Mouth has two parts, one for squirting saliva into the bite and one for sucking up the blood
o Can jump long distances (i.e. from one pet to another)
o Live up to a year

14) Louse:
Location = your head/hair (find them on animals too - lots of different species!)
Why does it live there?
o Your head provides a source of food (blood)
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o They itch!
Interesting Facts:
o Wingless biting or sucking insects
o Eggs are called nits
o Head lice have been recovered from prehistoric mummies!
o Humans are the only animal to have multiple species of lice (we have 3 - head, clothes and pubic, maybe don't tell the children about the last species though...)

15) Bed Bug:
Location = bedroom
Why does it live there?
o Feeds solely on the blood of animals (i.e. you!)
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o Although they don’t usually cause disease, they can cause skin irritation
Interesting Facts:
o Can’t fly – but can move very quickly
o Adults can survive for more than a year without feeding
o They are active mainly at night and don't come out if there isn't a potential meal (exposed skin)
o Inject saliva and aesthetic

16) Cockroach:
Location = your bathroom (near a pipe)
Why does it live there?
o Cockroaches like dark, damp, warm places
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o Cockroaches can contaminate food with certain bacterial diseases that result in food poisoning, dysentery, and diarrhea
o Cockroaches can cause childhood asthma
Interesting Facts:
o Cockroaches don’t like lights – they will run away from sources of light
o Cockroaches are nocturnal
o Cockroaches can survive without their heads for over a week - they breath through spiracles (holes in their exoskeleton) so don't suffocate without heads, but die of dehydration, they also don't bleed to death as they have open circulatory systems (unlike our high pressure systems)

17, 18, 19) See below

20) Slug
Location = Garden
Why does it live there?
o Some feed on the leaves of plants. Others feed on earthworms or other slugs
Do you want these living in your house? Why not?
o No - the eat your plants and leave slime trails everywhere
Interesting Facts:
o Slime is secreted to stop slugs from drying out (desiccating) and attracts water (hygroscopic)
o Slime trails can be used for slugs to find each other (e.g. for mating) or for carnivorous slugs to find slugs to eat
o Slime trails make it difficult and repulsive for predators to eat them
(o Humans control slugs by spraying nematodes (round worms) into the water, which then infect and kill the slugs. Slug pellets work differently causing the slugs to dehydrate - metaldehyde & methiocarb are the active ingredients in slug pellets. The first causes the slug to swell and the second causes damage to the mucus cells resulting in the over-production of mucus. (source the Naked Scientist)

The kids will look at different parasites and learn how they cause disease in human/animal hosts.

Other things to talk about:
1) How are these parasites transmitted?
2) Where in the world are these diseases prevalent? Why?

Tips for demonstrating: Great for the "we've seen it all before" older kids.


R1) You can talk about how they live inside animals and sometimes humans - in their intestines.

R2) Ask the children if they know where their intestine is. If not, point to it on your body, and briefly explain what it is (food in through mouth, down into stomach, then into intestines, and out as poop).

R3) Then you could say that the life cycle for some human roundworms involves ingestion of eggs, hatching of eggs, the babies going out through your gut wall (because they're not big enough to live in the gut all on their own yet) and finding their way via the lymphatic system to the lungs.

R4) The baby roundworms aren't content to stay there, so they crawl up your lungs and "tickle," What would you do if something was tickling you inside your lungs? That's right, we cough the thing up. Then, once we've coughed, unless we spit out the phlegm, what do we do? We Swallow it.

R5) Roundworms go to intestine again, but by this time they're big, and they grow there.

R6) How do they grow? They eat. What do they eat? Your food in your intestines!

R7) How many do you think can live in your intestines? About 100 can live in one person.

R8) How do you think they make you feel? They can block your gut, cause pain, anaemia, and malnutrition.

R9) So - how do other people become infected? The roundworms produce lots of eggs, which you excrete in your feces (poop). If this gets on someone's hands/in their food (through poor sanitation/hygiene), they will get infected. Moral of the story: wash your hands after using the toilet!

THey can suspend their processes in unfavourable conditions, extreme habitats. Diverse.


F1) Show the flatworm to the kids and explain that these flatworms infect cows and humans. How do they get infected?

F2) Show them the flatworm segments in the tube

F3) Explain that these segments are excreted in cow poop... because some of these segments are motile - they form a long sticky trail!

F4) Quite often, these segments are excreted onto grass, and another cow will become infected when it eats the grass.


L1) These live in your liver, and make holes in it (like swiss cheese).

L2) How would this make you feel? Why do you need your liver? Explain how the liver detoxifies things that we eat, and without these toxins can build up in our body and harm us!

L3) The infection route is by eating of encysted juvenile form of the parasites. The parasites come out from the cyst when they reach intestine, then make their way to the liver and munch through for a living. Their eggs are released into environment with faeces.

L4) Animal infection with these parasite can cause troubles for sheep and cattle farming.

Risk Assessment
Date risk assesment last checked: 
Sun, 20/01/2019
Risk assesment checked by: 
Matt Worssam
Date risk assesment double checked: 
Mon, 21/01/2019
Risk assesment double-checked by: 
Risk Assessment: 

Looking at dead insects or other pests in small, solid perspex blocks with rounded edges, talking about them and matching them to their home environment on a board

Hazard Risk Likelihood Severity Overall Mitigation Likelihood Severity Overall
Breaking the blocks Smashing a specimen block or magnifying glass could cause cuts. 1 3 3 It is very unlikely that the perspex blocks would break, even with a significant amount of force. However, demonstrators should keep a careful eye on the blocks and magnifying glass, account for all specimen tubes every time a demonstration is completed.
Call first aider in case of injury (cut). Clear up perspex(using the dustpan and brush from Set Up and Clear Up), wrapping up in paper or similar so that it won't rip through the bin bag. Place in broken glass box if available at a school.
In case of injury, call first aider.
1 2 2
Tripping over blocks Blocks are quite small and their transparency means that it might be difficult to see them, creating a potential tripping hazard. 2 2 4 Demonstrators should make sure that blocks are not played with by young children without supervision.
If a block is dropped, it should be picked back up as soon as the area is safe to do so.
In case of a child (or adult) tripping over, call first aider.
1 2 2
Publicity photo: 
Experiment photos: