This past weekend, Nevada Bugs & Butterflies opened back up their science center and butterfly house for the season, and my sons couldn’t be more excited. If you’re unfamiliar with Nevada Bugs & Butterflies, they provide hands on experiences with native insects and wildlife to help get kids excited about science and our local environment. I highly recommend a trip out to the north valley to visit their free garden and butterfly house (where butterflies will land on you, which the kids get a kick out of).
My sons seem to spend most of each summer peeking under rocks and swinging nets in hopes of finding insects, spiders and butterflies of all kinds. So, when I got a chance to talk to Nevada Bugs & Butterflies Executive Director, Kevin Burls, I asked him all about how to support kids that love exploring bugs. If you have children that are equally curious or passionate about bugs, here’s a few tips from the local expert:
1. Know Your Bugs
The most important thing for any aspiring bug enthusiast is a proper guide to help identify which bug is which. I’ve found a number of great bug books – go to most any bookstore and you can find a dozen suitable bug guides in the children’s section. Kevin suggested two guides: National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America (which is about $11.00 on Amazon) and Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America (also about $11.00).
2. Come Equipped
If you decide that you’d like your child to get a closer look, and maybe even touch bugs, then you want to have the right equipment. So, you’re going to want to go out and buy a beekeeper suit. I’m kidding! Bugs aren’t as scary as we’ve made them out to be – most bugs are relatively harmless and not inclined to bite or sting. It’s natural to be worried about your child’s curiosity landing them in the ER from the most deadly bug bite ever. But, it’s not likely.
A few basic things you may want to equip your kiddo with to start things off:
- Magnifying glass
- Jar or magnifying jar
- Insect net (Kevin recommends BioQuip as the best nets, and they make kid-sized nets)
3. Location, Location, Location
Bug “hunting” can feel a lot like fishing if you don’t know where to look – that is to say it can take a long time searching to only catch a minnow/gnat. So, Kevin offered a few tips on where to find a diversity of bugs.
- Flowers – maybe a no-brainer, but where there are flowers, there will be bugs. Find high-wildflower areas for the best variety of bugs. By the end of July, there aren’t as many flowers, so get out there now!
- Water – similar to flowers – water attracts bugs, and those bugs attract bigger bugs. Seek water, and you’ll find bugs.
- There are a couple of hot-spots that Kevin recommended – Hunter Creek and Jones/Whites Creek areas. If you want to see an amazing collection in one comfy indoor place, you can visit the University of Nevada, Reno, Museum of Natural History. And, of course, I highly recommend visiting Nevada Bugs & Butterflies for an easy way to see a number of insects up close, and have all your questions answered.