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A Bug's Life

Public summary: 

All sorts of creepy crawlies preserved in perspex blocks or jars.

All sorts of creepy crawlies preserved in perspex blocks or jars.
Useful information
Kit List: 

Various insects inside perspex blocks or in jars.
A magnifying glass
Key with descriptions of each insect (below)
Jam jar lid
Hair comb

Packing Away: 

Please put the perspex blocks back in the right place - there is a key in the explanation.
If any jars are not full of liquid/look leaky please let a committee member know.

Frequency of use: 

*** OVERVIEW ***

Children will look at lots of jars and blocks of interesting creatures, try to identify them, and learn a few things are each one. This is one of those experiments where you'll often get kids who are very interested or not really interested at all, so feel free to vary how long you keep them with you depending on how interested they seem. Don't worry if they only look at one thing then leave!

Tips for demonstrating:
1) Make sure that none of your bugs disappear during the day! I would recommend having a smaller selection out at a time so you can keep an eye on them all (and can remember interesting facts about them all).
2) If they're young 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) Do they know anything about the type of bug? (if they recognise it they will often start splurging everything they know about it - just let them talk to you about it!)
4) If they look using the magnifying glass can they see anything interesting (hairs on legs, joints of exoskeleton etc. - talk about the purposes of these things if you know!)
5) For older/very keen kids you can talk about taxonomy (a good website to flick through if you have time before you start:


10) White Cabbage Butterfly Eggs
17) White Cabbage Butterfly Larvae/Caterpillar
1) White Cabbage Butterfly Pupae
2) White Cabbage Butterfly Adults
- Cocoons=chrysalis
- In the chrysalis the caterpillar is 'digested' by enzymes, like with food in your stomach, and then rebuilt into a butterfly.

3) Cockroach nymph
11) Cockroach 2nd stage
12) Cockroach 3rd stage
9) Cockroach fully grown
- Nymphs hatch from eggs. As they grow, they must also grow their exoskeleton and so they undergo a series of molts until they are fully grown.
- Cockroaches are nocturnal.
- 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).

4) Mealworm
- Actually the larvae of the Darkling Beetle

5) Blowfly
- Also called a bluebottle
- The flies that lands on uncovered food in your house
- Their larvae (maggots) can be used to eat dead tissue to promote healing

6) Tick
- Eat blood
- Might have seen them on pets, can also be on humans too
- Transmit Lymes disease as well as many other diseases
- Can spend 200 days without food and water
- Mouth has a part for squirting saliva into the bite (prevents blood clotting which would close the wound) and one for sucking blood

7) Flea
- Eats blood - make you itchy when they bite
- Might have seen them on pets/know pets had them
- Carry diseases - the oriental Rat Flea carried the bubonic plague/black death to England
- Mouth has a part for squirting saliva into the bite (prevents blood clotting which would close the wound) and one for sucking blood
- Can jump very long distances so can travel from one pet to another (can you see their long hind legs?) - up to 35cm horizontally and 18cm vertically!

8) Locust
- When lots of them get together they form swarms which can destroy fields and fields of crops causing famines.

13) Roundworm
- Live in intestines (depending on kid's age, explain what this is!) of animals including people
- Lifecycle involves animal eating food contaminated with eggs, hatching of eggs in intestines, babies are too small to live in intestines yet so leave through gut wall into veins, travel to lungs, cause tickling feeling leading to coughing, cough phlegm and (unless you spit it out) swallow, now big enough to survive in intestines, lay eggs in intestine which come out in poo, gets onto other people's hands/food through poor hygiene (wash your hands after going to the toilet!) and so get ingested.
- They eat the food you are digesting and so cause people to lose weight and be very hungry as they are not getting the nutrients from the food they eat

14) Tapeworm
- Infect animals especially pigs, cows and humans
- Similar lifecycle to roundworm
- Can grow up to 16m (work out how many yous that would be when put end to end to help them visualise)

16) Lungworm
- Infects animals especially cats and dogs
- Dogs/cats eat slugs/snails/frogs which are infected with larvae (can be really small slugs on their fur that they ingest when grooming), larvae migrate to lungs as in roundworm but then stay there until adults, adults can stay in lungs or migrate through blood vessels into the heart

15) Slug
- Slime prevents the slugs drying out (we have a layer of dry keratin which protects our wet insides)
- Leave trails which are use to find each other, to repel predators, and in the case of carnivorous slugs, to find smaller slugs to eat

1) Giant Planthopper
- Walks very slowly as pretends to be a leaf then if it needs to escape predators/catch prey can do big leaps like a grasshopper

2) American Cockroach
- (see 3/11/12/9 in jars)

3) Blue Weevils
- Weevils are a type of beetle - often pests
- Colour warns predators that they are not tasty - they eat yam leaves which are toxic to most animals and eating enough blue weevils can be toxic as the chemicals from the yam leaves build up in them

4) Water Beetle
- Some species carry an air bubble under its abdomen to prevent water getting into its spiracles
- Other species have a modified exoskeleton which can carry out gas exchange with the water

5) Flower Mantis
- Aggressive mimicry = camouflage that attracts prey
- Climbs a plant that has flowers matching it's pattern (different species have different patterns specific to the area they live in and what flowers are there) and sits very still, waiting for pollinators to come up to it then strikes out with it's long forearms.

6) Giant Stag Beetle
- Can grow to over 12cm in length
- Males use large jaws to wrestle over females (similar to how stags fight over hinds)
- Females' jaws are smaller but much more powerful

7) Long-Nose Jungle Beetle
- Long nose is for eating pollen out of flowers
- Used to think they were pests as they prefer to eat dead flowers and so were always found when there were lots of dying plants - correlation not causation!

8) Cicada
- Use tymbals (modified exoskeleton walls on abdomen sides) to produce their loud noise - works by buckling (demonstrate using jam jar lid) (compare with grasshopper, 11)
- Nymphs live underground for up to 13 years before emerging as adults

10) Devil Spider

9) Shield Bug
- Also called stink bugs as they produce a smelly secretion from glands at the top of their legs to deter predators

11) Field Grasshopper
- Can jump up to a metre horizontally and 25cm vertically from standing
- Make their song using stridulation (scraping) - have a comb-like structure and a ridge on each wing and rub the comb of one wing against the ridge of the other (demonstrate using comb) (compare with cicada, 8) - they have a thick membrane on their wing which resonates to amplify the sound

12) Unicorn Beetle
- Also known as rhinoceros beetle
- Named because of their large horn - used to fight in males (similar to jaws in stag beetle, 6)

13) Giant Wasp
- It's sting can kill a mouse

14) Emerald Beetle

15) Manchurian Scorpion
- A chemical in its venom has analgesic properties so it's prey doesn't notice being stung
- It has hairs on it's tail which can sense the movement of nearby prey

Risk Assessment
Date risk assesment last checked: 
Mon, 23/12/2019
Risk assesment checked by: 
Polly Hooton
Date risk assesment double checked: 
Mon, 20/01/2020
Risk assesment double-checked by: 
Beatrix Huissoon
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 Affected Person(s) Likelihood Severity Overall Mitigation Likelihood Severity Overall
Breaking the blocks Smashing a specimen block or magnifying glass could cause cuts. All 2 3 6 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. All 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: