Tuesday, July 15, 2014

In a Grasshopper's World

Grasshoppers are insects. They have 3 main body parts: head, thorax and abdomen. Two antennae grow from a grasshopper's head. They use antennae to feel and smell things that are near. The "skin" of a grasshopper is actually a rigid covering called an exoskeleton. They have six legs, as do all insects. The front two pair of legs are relatively short and are used for walking and moving slowly. The two hind legs are much larger and very muscular. Grasshoppers use them to generate their famous gigantic jumps.
Grasshoppers have a relatively short lifespan. Eggs are laid in late summer and fall and remain dormant until spring. When the eggs hatch, tiny nymphs emerge. Grasshopper nymphs look much like miniature wingless adults! The nymph stage lasts about a month and a half. During this time, grasshoppers molt or shed their exoskeleton five times, each time getting bigger and looking more like an adult. Once they become adults, they can live two to three months, but they do not get any bigger.

Capturing Grasshoppers
Our focus for today was to observe grasshoppers in their natural habitat and study them closely. We began our day by talking about how to handle a grasshopper. We want to use two fingers on either side of the middle section, or thorax to hold them firmly without squeezing them. We can also cup our hands around them to capture them. We do not want to pick a grasshopper up by its leg or antennae. They would probably come off. We also know that grasshoppers may not feel comfortable if they are held for long periods of time so we were sure to give them a rest in the terrariums we made. 

A terrarium is a space for creatures to feel like they're in their natural habitat and survive for a short period of time. This also allows us time to observe them without handling them. We used mason jars with secure and well ventilated lids. We lined the bottom with sand and dirt and provided the grasshoppers with moist greens (grasses and vegetables) and dry food (oatmeal). Grasshoppers do not need water because they get enough water from the plants they eat. 

We found all kinds of grasshoppers of all different sizes and colors. We found them in a field and on the side of the trail in the long grasses. We'll have time each day this week to monitor and observe these jumping insects. 
Cooling off in the heat!

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