The air is hot and hazy in the summer! It’s a perfect time to study the insect life at the pond. Insect life will be buzzing around and in the water! Summer is a great time to find tiny toads or frogs! They will be leaving the pond between June and September. In the summer there’s an endless amount of insects to study in the pond! Insects are invertebrates, meaning they have no backbone (vertebrae). Invertebrates make up approximately eighty percent of all living things on Earth.
There are seven main levels when classifying living things in a summer pond:
• Kingdom: Insects belong to the Animal Kingdom.
• Phylum: Here we have:
Vertebrates (with a backbone) = Chordata
Invertebrates (without a backbone) = many different Phyla (plural of Phylum)
Insects belong to the phylum Arthropoda; invertebrate animals have the following characteristics:
- A Segmented Body
- Jointed Appendages
Arthropods include insects, arachnids, (spiders) myriapods, (millipedes and centipedes) and crustaceans (crayfish, fairy shrimp, etc)
• Class: Insecta (insects)
How to study insects in a Pond in the summer
◦ Three body parts – The head, thorax, and abdomen
◦ Three pairs of jointed legs. The legs are all attached to the thorax.
◦ An exoskeleton; a hard skeleton on the outside of the body, made of chitin. Chitin is the hard substance that makes up the exoskeletons of insects, crustaceans, and the ‘skin’ of fungi.
Most insects have compound eyes. Compound eyes can have up to 30,000 different sensors or surfaces that are very sensitive to light. Compound eyes do not see things in the distance, or in much detail. They do not see things close up, or very quick movements.
Almost all insects have a pair of antenna on their heads , which they use for smelling and feeling, and in some insects, hearing and taste.
• Order: A wide variety that includes butterflies, mayflies, and dragonflies, amongst many others.
You can use a field guide to classify a particular insect in the pond. YOu can look up location and habitat.
Summer Pond Nature Walk Activity:
This week, take a walk with your child to your local pond to explore what is happening there in the summertime. Our focus for this week’s nature study will be the insect life, both in and on the surface of the water. You should still be on the lookout for amphibians such as toads, frogs, and even salamanders! Notice the water level of the pond. Record some color samples of paint or colored pencil in your journals to represent the summer colors that you see.
Half fill your white tub with pond water and invite your child to use their net to begin pond dipping. The best way to pond dip, is to swirl your net in a figure eight shape in the water, then carefully turn out the net into the tray of water and allow any creatures you have caught to swim out. Let the water settle and see what you have caught.
Your magnifying glass may be helpful. Dipping close to plant life is likely to produce more creatures.
You are most likely to find insects, such as Water boatmen and Backswimmers. You may also find crustaceans, (will have an exoskeleton, and two pairs of antennae) such as crayfish and fairy shrimp. Annelids (no exoskeleton, but a series of ring-like segments) such as worms and leaches. Arachnids or spiders can be found in the pond. The Water Spider is the only spider that spends its entire time underwater. If you think you may have caught one, it can be recognized by the silvery air bubble it carries around on the hairs on its body. Molluscs, with a unsegmented, soft body, and a headfoot, such as pond snails.
Take care to avoid getting mud in your net as this will make it more difficult to see any creatures that you catch.
Sketch the different creatures you have found, and look them up them up in your pond guide. To help with identification, count the body parts, legs, antenna. Note any distinctive markings. Record what you find, and remember to have fun. If you have extra time make a frog home!
How to study the 4 Zones of Plant life in ponds:
These plants grow around the pond edge and in marshy areas. A tall plant that’s good for birds in the autumn is Meadowsweet. You may also see the Water Forget-Me-Not that flowers from spring to autumn.
These plants grow in shallower areas. Swamp grasses are great hiding places for pond invertebrates. Bullrushes and Yellow Flag Iris may also be seen in the pond.
Water lily and water crowfoot will be seen floating on the water.
Various pond weeds such as fennel, horned, and shining will be completely submerged.
Studying Ponds through the seasons:
Notice the water level of the pond through the seasons. You could take a photograph or make a marker. You can add this information to your nature journal through the seasons. In autumn look for migrating birds or frogs returning to the pond to spend the summer.
Safety Note about pond Study
Ponds can be interesting places to study, but they can are also be very dangerous. Slippery sides and mud at the bottom can make shallow water very dangerous. Children must always be supervised very closely.