KINGSTON TWP. — Children and parents alike were buzzing with excitement over the Insect Safari program held Saturday afternoon at Frances Slocum State Park.
Part of the park’s weekly Saturday educational programs, this week’s “Insect Safari” took children ages 6 and up (as well as parents) off the beaten path and into the “wilds” of the park in search of insects of all types.
“It’s a traditional summer activity that’s been happening since long ago,” said Park Naturalist Kathy Kerchner, on her 19th season at Frances Slocum. “Back then, kids would go out after dinner at grandma and grandpa’s house and go bug hunting. It’s important for them to learn that even insects are important to the natural habitat, and they’re all living creatures.”
The activities began with Kerchner instructing the children on the tools used for their two-part expedition.
There were two different types of nets needed depending on the type of insect they were hoping to get. The mesh net, with breathable holes that allow air to pass through, was made for catching “flyers” such as butterflies and dragonflies.
“When a butterfly is in the air, if you sweep with this net, the air will pass right through and you’d be able to scoop up the butterfly without letting them know you’re about to catch them,” said Kerchner.
The second type of net, the “sweep net,” was for catching traditional creepy crawlers – the children were instructed to sweep them in the ferns and foliage with the same motion as a broom, catching all types of insects in the canvas.
“I don’t know if I have a favorite bug, but I think my favorite is the rainbow one we just caught,” said Matthew Marranca, 9, of Jenkins Township. The rainbow bug he’s referencing is the multi-colored, iridescent “damsel fly,” similar to the larger dragonfly.
The children also were able to see an oak gall, a large growth that occurs on plants when an insect – such as in this case, a wasp– injects it’s eggs and/or larvae into the plant in order for it to grow and take advantage of the plant’s nutrients.
When the children caught the insects in their respective nets, they were then given “insect boxes” to place their findings in temporarily. The boxes, rife with all types of insect life, became tiny micro-ecosystems for the children to examine at the end of the program.
“It’s really fun, I caught a ladybug,” said Brooke Bealla, 9, of Dallas. “I don’t like spiders, but I caught them too.”
After releasing their insects back into the wild, the children received an insect poster as a parting gift from their “wild” day on insect safari.
The next program will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the campground amphitheatre, entitled “Birds of Prey for Kids.”