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Insect Nature Study – Potpourri

As part of this month’s newsletter nature study suggestions, we have been on the lookout for insect home related subjects to take a closer look at in person. As it usually happens, we found some interesting things to learn about….research was definitely involved.

Insect gall on maple

It does amaze me that there are so many things happening around us in the natural world that go unnoticed. Take the image above. My husband was trimming some tree branches from our maple tree last weekend and as we cleaned up the mess, we both noticed this growth on a branch. What is it? A gall of some sort? We decided to submit the image to for some help in identifying what insect created this home. Guess what? They told me it was a praying mantis egg sack! Cool stuff! (I found this article very interesting: Dave’s Garden Praying Mantis.)

Ant hill in Oregon

We are prone to walking right by the ant hills on our hikes. The common ant is an amazing engineer and we don’t often take time to note his industriousness.

Praying Mantis

Ok, this insect is not in his home but rather in MY home. Do you think he wants some toast or a bagel? We safely escorted him outside after taking a few pictures.

web cat

 My cat is always hiding in the bushes and as we looked for signs of insects in our year she emerged from her hiding spot covered in cobwebs and dried leaves. She knows all the good spots to hideaway in our front yard but is willing to welcome us as we walk up the steps with a friendly meow. Give her a pet on the head as you walk by if you ever visit.

We will continue to look for insect homes as the season progresses. I didn’t spy any leaf rollers this time but I am keeping my eyes wide open for the opportunity to see these interesting creatures up close.

 Outdoor Hour Challenge Leaf Miners and Leaf Rollers Insect Study @handbookofnaturestudy









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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Ant Insect Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Ant Study @handbookofnaturestudy

Summer Ant Study – from the archives

Ant Study

This is a topic that never gets boring…ants are everywhere and once your children start hunting they will find more to observe than you ever imagined. Use the options below to complete a nature notebook page for ants. If you don’t find ants, look for any insect of interest!

Printable Notebook Page:
There are two versions of the generic insect notebook page for you to download and use with any of the insect challenges.

Insect Study – record your field guide notes and a sketch
Insect Notes – simple page with wider lines for younger students

For Members:

Spring Nature Study ebook @handbookofnaturestudy

This challenge was originally published in the Spring Nature Study ebook. If you have this in your Ultimate Membership library, you may wish to print out the custom notebook page that goes along with the nature study ideas.

Ultimate Naturalist Library June 2016 @handbookofnaturestudy

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First Day of June Photos

Just a random post with some First Day of June Photos for you to enjoy!


We have had a mystery plant growing along the fence line. It turns out it is a delphinium, growing this year instead of last year when I planted the seeds. I always love a good mystery plant and this one is gorgeous. I wonder what happened to the rest of the seeds from the packet…maybe they will grow next year.


Our hydrangeas are starting to bloom along the side of the house, shaded in the afternoon they just keep coming back year after year. I love a no nonsense plant that will just really take care of itself but provide copious amounts of flowers to cut and enjoy on the kitchen table. I love the shade of purple they are this year.

Day lily

Many of the day lilies are already showing their blazing colors…it is so early for them to be in bloom but I will not complain.

Day lily 2

Just another day lily…

Granny smith apples
I am hoping this is an apple year after our disappointing harvest last year. We have lots of granny smith apples growing in the backyard sunshine…dreaming a crisp tart apple come autumn!

Ant colony

We finally spotted an ant colony along our walking trail. I used my shoe to scoot the big rock off the top of the hole and about a million ants came scurrying out. They were rather large ants that had displaced a lot of soil to make their living quarters. It was a little late to include in last month’s Ant Study but it was still fascinating to watch them.

Ant colony dirt

Here is a better image to see how much dirt/gravel they have moved out around the hole. I took a little video to give an idea of how many ants were running around the hole.

Ants moving video

I am so looking forward to the month of June and it warmer weather and long hours of daylight. I have so much gardening to catch up on but it is a labor of love.

Happy June!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Spring Ant Study

Ant Nature Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge:

Every day we pass by ants, not noticing them in their busy ways. This week try to slow down and look for some ants in your yard, perhaps under a rock, in a crack in the sidewalk, or on a plant. Find a way to make this fun for your children. Invite them to open their eyes and to look carefully.

Use the ideas in this challenge from the past to get you going: Spring Series #10: Ants.

You can also use the Nature Journal Topper from the May 2014 newsletter to inspire a fun ant related nature study and journal entry.

If you have access to the new printables as part of your membership to this site, there is a new printable sheet with Insect Nature Table and Learning Style ideas for you to print out.

Special Activity:

Make a model of an ant out of clay or Sculpey. Make sure to depict the three body parts of the ant: head, thorax, and abdomen. There is a great video to show you how to do this with clay and wire.

How to Build a Model of an Ant on

Getting Started Suggestion:

If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #3.  Use the suggestions in this challenge to make some ant observations and then follow up with a drawing activity for your nature journal. Here is a link to help with drawing an ant: How To Draw an Ant-Step by Step.

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OHC Blog Carnival

You are welcome to submit any of you blog Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Entries for the current month are due on 5/30/14.


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Ant Nature Study- Right in Our Own Backyard

I finally remembered where I had seen lots of ants….on our backyard trumpet vines. This morning I had a chance to go out with Mr. A and take a closer look armed with our cameras and a desire to learn more.

After watching the ants for a few minutes, I realized they were not the only insect enjoying this colorful vine. The honeybees were buzzing right at ear level and even though I knew they were not interested much in me, I felt the need to keep getting out of their way.  They were very active and in the photo above you can see there would be multiple bees in one flower. This one had four!

After coming back inside, we did some research online to reveal why the ants are on the trumpet vine. There seems to be two lines of thinking:
1. The ants are farming aphids that also live on the trumpet vine.
2. The ants are actually partaking of the nectar found in the trumpet vine blossom.

This led to more outdoor time trying to discover which it was in our case.They definitely were interested in the flowers so I think our ants were after the nectar of the flowers.

According to the USDA, the trumpet vine is a habitat to the hummingbird, the butterfly, and the ant.  I thought it was interesting that the USDA also considers the trumpet vine to be an “invasive weed”. We have had trouble with it sending out its sucker roots and coming up in the lawn but we just keep mowing them down.

Of course, Kona needed a little attention when we were out looking for ants. Smile Kona!

We ended up walking around the garden and ticking off a few of our insect grid tasks…and finding two surprising insects which I will save for my grid study entry next week. I love the way we start off looking for something as simple as an ant, find ourselves asking a question that we answer with more research, investigate some more about a plant we have in our backyard, and end up really enjoy our time together. Although we had a focus in mind when we went outside, the nature study part was very relaxed and natural.

Right in our own backyard.

I am going to record the insects we saw on my insect list from the monthly newsletter, make a nature journal entry for the trumpet vine since we did all the research, and mark off several of the squares on our insect grid.

OHC Blog Carnival
Hope you are enjoying your monthly focus on insects this month and don’t forget to send in your blog entries for the carnival.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge-Insect Study-Ants

Welcome to the first of the September 2012 Outdoor Hour Challenges. Whether this is your first or your fortieth nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study, please know that I am so glad that you are here and that you are going to join us for a new round of nature study in your own backyard.

If you need an explanation of how the Outdoor Hour Challenge is going to work from this day forward, please read this entry:
Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge – How to Steps and Explanation. 

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
This week’s challenge, which you can complete at any time that is convenient, is to take a closer look at the subject of ants using the Handbook of Nature Study. You will find the original study here on my blog by following this link: Outdoor Hour Challenge-Ants (from the Spring 2010 ebook).

Printable Notebook Page:
This week the challenge extra is a free printable notebook page that will give you a place to record any of your insect studies. There are two versions for you to download and use with any of the insect challenges. Please use these with any insect you decide to study this month and not just ants.

Insect Study – record your field guide notes and a sketch
Insect Notes – simple page with wider lines for younger students

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Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own this ebook, this week’s ant study would be a great start to Challenge #7 – Your Own Field Guide. You could start with ants and then add more entries as you observe more insects this month. Note there is a create Your Own Field Guide notebook page in the ebook for you to use with this challenge.

Don’t forget that the Getting Started ebook has a complete selection of generic nature journal pages at the back for you to print and use with any challenge.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Insects – Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenges

Field Guides I have Used With My Family

Please note the above links are Amazon affiliate links to books I own and love!

Outdoor Hour Challenge Insect Nature Study Challenges Index @handbookofnaturestudy
NOTE: If the challenge is included an ebook, it is noted directly after the challenge. If you have an Ultimate Membership, you will be able to pull up the ebook and print any notebook pages, coloring pages, or other printables for your nature study.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

Ants – Spring ebook



Black Swallowtail – Spring Nature Study Continues


Caddisfly and Caddis worm – Summer Nature Study Continues

Cockroach – Autumn 2015

Crickets – Summer ebook and another cricket study

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Fireflies – Summer ebook

Gall Dwellers – More Nature Study Winter

Grasshoppers – Summer ebook


Insect Printables

Insect Study with Bug’s Eye View Printable

Katydids – Summer ebook

Lacewing – Summer Nature Study Continues coming soon


Leaf Miners and Leaf Rollers – More Nature Study Autumn

Monarch Butterfly – More Nature Study Summer

Moths – Summer ebook and another moth study

Mosquitoes – Summer ebook

Mud Daubers – More Nature Study Summer

Winter Insects – Winter Wednesday ebook

Yellow Jackets – More Nature Study Summer

Newsletters With a Insect Theme (If you have a membership, you have access to all archived newsletters.)
  • September 2012 – Insect study grid. Ant study. Lesson plans for insect and spider study.
  • April 2014 – Making a bug hotel.
  • June 2016 – Insect Wing Study notebook page. Insect nature study and nature journal ideas.
  • September 2016 – Insect home study ideas. Gall dweller nature study. Insect study grid. Insect coloring page.

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Ants Are Everywhere: Our Last Spring Series Challenge Entry

Wildside flowers
My wildside is now blooming like crazy.

Better late than never….here is our last Spring Series Challenge for ants. I made this a challenge for my youngest son to go out and quickly find three different spots in our yard where he knew there were ants.

I know that from working around the yard that there are places where we regularly find ants. In fact, last week I was watering our garden and it seems that I disturbed a colony of ants and they were quickly crawling up my legs before I even knew it. Let’s just say that I decided the best course of action was to turn the hose on myself and wash them all away. It must have looked rather funny….you can picture me wearing a skirt with ants crawling all over my legs….then me drenched with cold hose water doing a little “ants in my pants” dance.

Here are the three photos that my son took as he completed my mini-challenge for ants.

Ants in the rocks
Ant on the rocks

Ants on the tree
Ant on the tree

Ants on the sidewalk
Ants on the sidewalk

I found a few more this morning during my outdoor time.

Ants on the sunflower
Ants on the sunflower

Ants on the wall going to the bird feeder
Ants on the wall leading up to the hummingbird feeder

English plantain with pollen
I also noticed that on my wildside I now have English plantain blossoming. Can you see the pollen on my fingers from this little flower? It is very pretty up-close and I never even knew we had this in our yard because it usually gets mowed down before it has flowers.

New section of wildside
After we did some pruning a few weeks ago, I added the limbs under a bush near our birdfeeder. I am trying to see what kind of animals and birds will be attracted to this sheltered area adjacent to my wildside. So far I have noticed that the little birds will fly into the pile and then pop out to snatch seeds from under the feeder.

Well that wraps up the whole Spring Series of Challenges for our family. We are busy working on the Summer Series as the weather warms up.


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OHC Spring Series #10: Ants


Outdoor Hour Challenge
Spring Series #10
Insect Study-Ants

Inside Preparation Work:

Read pages 294-300 in the Handbook of Nature Study to learn more about insects in general. You might like to introduce your child to the development and structure of insects using the information from the Handbook of Nature Study.
Read pages 369-373 in the Handbook of Nature Study for information about the ant. Make some notes after reading Lesson 91 on the Field Observations of Ants so you will have some ideas for observation when you take your children outdoors. This might be a fun challenge to use a magnifying lens!
*Note if you are using the free download of the HNS, The Ways of the Ant are on page 419 and in the Homeschool Freebie version of the HNS, the ant is in the Insects PDF on page 114.
We have used educational ant farms over the years in our home and they are a fascinating way to study ants up close. I highly suggest this as a family activity. Here is a link to the ant farm we have used in the past: Uncle Milton’s Giant Ant Farm.

Outdoor Hour Time:
For this challenge you can spend some of your outdoor time looking for ants. Ask your children if they have noticed ants in your backyard and have them investigate to find some ants to observe. Look under rocks, logs, along sidewalks, under leaves, on the bark of trees, and on garden plants. Use the suggestions you listed in your inside preparation time to learn some more about your ants.

Some Ideas For a Simple Ant Study

  • Quietly observe ants at work. Count how many ants you can see.
  • Look carefully to see if all the ants are the same size.
  • Do you see ants working together to carry something?
  • Do you see any aphids with your ants?
  • Do you see any ants fighting?
  • Do you see any eggs?  

Follow Up Time:Talk about the ants you were able to observe during your outdoor time. As always, allow time for a nature journal entry. If you are keeping a simple nature journal of your own, remember that a journal entry can be as easy as a sketch, label, and a date. You can also use the notebook page from the Spring Series Ebook or a blank nature journal page from the sidebar of my blog.

You may be interested in viewing this YouTube video from PBS and NOVA, Lord of the Ants. It is rather long but you can choose to watch just a portion of it if you want to with your children.

If you would like all the Spring Series Challenges in one book, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. The ebook also contains art and music appreciation plans for the winter months as well. Please see this entry for more details:
Spring Series Cover
Spring Nature Study with Art and Music Appreciation

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy