Observation
Homes

Requirements

A large clear plastic container.
A craft knife and sharp scissors.
A glass jar.
Cotton wool.
Muslin.
A large elastic band.
A sycamore or rose twig with aphids on the leaves.

Using Plastic Bottles and Containers to make
Observation Homes for Ladybirds, Caterpillars and Woodlice

This project is supported by the Department of the Environment Environmental Partnership Fund.
Most people are fascinated by ladybirds. An observation home in a classroom or school corridor will create a source of endless wonder.
Children can learn about food chains as they watch the hungry ladybirds devour greenflies. If they are lucky, they will be able to see the ladybird's yellowy-orange eggs hatch out into larvae, which also eat aphids.
It can be explained to children that a ladybird's black spots absorb energy from the sun; that this creature has the danger colours of nature viz. black and red; that it tastes horrible and that it exudes a sticky liquid when attacked, which gums up the mouth and antennae of an attacker.
The futility of spraying aphids with poisonous chemicals can also be brought to their attention. Many useful creatures including ladybirds are killed in the process. Aphids multiply much quicker than their predators and the balance of nature is irretrievably disturbed.

Method

Cut around the base of the container, about 4 cm from the bottom. Remove the off-cut. (This makes a useful tray for plant pots).
Half fill the jar with water and stand it inside the container.
Place a small sycamore branch in the jar of water. Pack cotton wool around the top of the jar. This will prevent ladybirds from falling into the water. Cut out a piece of muslin to fit around the wide end of the container. Put some ladybirds onto the branch with the aphids and secure the muslin with an elastic band.

After Care

Put a fresh twig with aphids into the jar and remove the old one after a few days.
Change the water regularly.
Watch out for ladybird eggs, larvae and honeydew (excretion of ladybirds much sought after by ants).
Text:Paddy Madden
Illustrations:Eileen Fleming
Editor:Marian Rollins
Design:Taran Pyper

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