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Found My Orb Web!

We were busy pulling all of the dead and brown things out of the garden when I spotted it! The most perfect spider web I have seen in a long time was right next to the hose reel. I actually touched it before I saw it and it startled me.

Spiderweb 10 15 11 (3)
The sun was shining just right to see most of it in a photo so I ran inside and snapped a few images to share here on the blog. I called Mr. A and my husband over to take a look and we admired the preciseness of the web and we talked a bit about how it was constructed with a frame and then the web spun around and around.

Spiderweb 10 15 11 (2)
I took the opportunity to see if the inside threads were sticky like we read about in the Handbook of Nature Study.

Isn’t that grand? I love learning new things alongside my boys….

“The radii or spokes, the guy-lines, the framework, and the center of the web are all made of inelastic silk, which does not adhere to an object that touches it. The spiral line, on the contrary, is very elastic, and adheres to any object brought in contact with it. An insect which touches one of these spirals and tries to escape become entangled in the neighboring lines and is thus held fast until the spider can reach it. If one of these elastic lines be examined with a microscope, it is a most beautiful object. There are strung upon it, like pearls, little drops of sticky fluid which render it not only elastic but adhesive.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 440.

Thanks Anna Botsford Comstock for bringing such an amazing detail to our attention. We have a heightened sense of awe over something we have overlooked our entire lives. Now I can rest our web study for the season, unless a new web presents itself.

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So Many Webs – So Many Questions

Fall Pots - Red Gerbera Daisy
No webs in this image, just a pretty flower.

Looking for spider webs can become a little obsessive. We have been hypersensitive to webs over the past few weeks in anticipation of the Fall Web Challenge, spotting them just about everywhere. Are there always this many webs and is it only because we are focusing on them right now that they seem to pop up in so many places? I guess that is a question we will answer over the next few months. We are in the middle of a huge rainstorm so I am glad that I have been snapping photos as we went along…it is very wet out there today.

Fall Web 3

We seem to see the most of this kind of web….very filmy and not at all like a web you would draw or think of when the word is mentioned. They seem disorganized and messy, that is until you get up close and really look at the structure.

Fall Web 5

There they are…the outline lines of the web. We wonder how they get from here to there and back again since the distances are quite far. We could never actually see a spider spinning a web which is now on our list of things to be on the lookout for in the months to come. We could not determine if this was truly a “filmy dome” as described in Lesson 113 of the Handbook of Nature Study.

Fall Web 4

These photos were all taken in our backyard and were mostly in the crepe myrtle bushes.

Fall Web 2

See how the web seems to almost encase the leaves and branch? We observed many of these webs in our backyard and although they were a great source of interest, we were disappointed that we didn’t see a pretty orb web. We all decided that this will be a study we save for when the opportunity presents itself, to study a web up-close and maybe, just maybe to see the spider spinning the web.

We are looking forward to this Friday’s challenge….the current rainstorm has started the leaves falling and I even spotted a few colored ones! We did have snow up the road from our house this morning but it has melted already in the rain. This is going to be an interesting autumn.

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More Nature Study With The Outdoor Hour Challenge – Autumn 2011 Ebook

More Nature Study Autumn Cover image

Nature Study Using the Handbook of Nature Study- Autumn 2011 Series

Completely updated in 2016!

The ten challenges included in this new ebook are written in the format of the Outdoor Hour Challenges that can be found on the blog. Each weekly challenge can be completed as you have the opportunity and you can complete as much or as little of each challenge as you have time and interest.

Each challenge has three parts: inside preparation work, outdoor time, and then a follow-up activity. Each challenge is written so you can adapt it to your own backyard or local area. Use the challenge ideas to get started with simple weekly nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study.

This ebook is written for families with children of all ages. In addition to the regular challenge, new to this ebook is the addition of suggested nature study activities and follow-up for more advanced students. I included “advanced follow-up” ideas and created “upper level” notebook pages to give each challenge a deeper study if you have children who are ready for additional learning opportunities.

Also, a new feature for Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers is the addition of suggested Charlotte Mason style exam questions to be used at the end of the term. The questions are meant to help your child recall and then share in some way his nature study experience. Since this is the first time I have included exam questions, I would love to hear your feedback after using them with your children. I am planning on using them with my high school age son.

More Nature Study Autumn Cover image
Included in the More Nature Study With The Outdoor Hour Challenge – Autumn 2011/2016 Ebook:
  • Ten challenges centered on the Handbook of Nature Study
  • Eleven notebook pages and eight coloring pages
  • Thirteen Upper Level notebook pages
  • Ten Charlotte Mason style exam questions
  • Complete instructions for each challenge included additional links and resources
  • Nature journal suggestions
  • Complete list of supplies needed
  • Coordinates with the monthly Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletter ideas
  • 52 pages
  • Sample here: More Nature Study Autumn

Here are the topics covered in this autumn ebook along with alternate ideas for you to include if they are more appropriate to your area. 

  • Milkweed – any other autumn wildflower or weed
  • Leaf Miners – examine leaves with a hand lens
  • Pears – year long tree study
  • Cobwebs of all kinds
  • Fall Color – leaf gathering
  • Chipmunk – squirrel
  • House sparrow – any other bird
  • Leaf Close Up
  • Thistles – any other fall composite flower
  • Maple seeds – any tree that has seeds of any type

As always, please email me with any questions or comments.




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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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Our Moth Study: Summer 2010

Summer Series 2010 Outdoor Hour Challenge for Fireflies and Moths

Since we do not have fireflies in our part of the world, this will be the second time we have studied moths using the Outdoor Hour Challenges. During the summer of 2008 we completed a moth study while on our camping trip. Moths seem to be one of those creatures that we don’t pay too much attention to as we go about our regular business.

The Discover Nature At Sundown book gave us some really good ways to tell moths and butterflies apart, along with wonderful illustrations of the parts of a moth. We are going to continue our study of moths as we have subjects come our way.

Here are a few moths we have seen in the past.

moth 2
Forget me not moth

Moth we saw on a trip to Oregon that I would love to know the name of if anyone out there has it. Hint, hint.

We have been watching for moths in our garden in the evenings but the best place to observe them is actually in the house. I many times come into the kitchen in the morning and find a few moths clinging to the bottom of the nightlight. I scoop them up and take them back outside.

We did find some signs of spiders in the garden during the day this week. There has been a return of the webs on our crepe myrtle. I was able to capture a few in photos and even one photo of the spider that I think must be making the webs. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Web on Crepe Myrtle (3)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (2)

Web on Crepe Myrtle (5)
See the spider inside the web? These are fantastic webs to look at and they are complex as well as beautiful.

So much for a firefly and moth study….we never feel defeated though. Our advance preparation seems to always pay off in one way or another. I am confident that we will someday be in a position to study fireflies up close and personal.


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Spider and a Ladybug: Tangled Webs

My son’s keen eyes spotted this drama happening right on our back deck. The spider was spinning this ladybug up as we watched. The spider is gorgeous.

“Perhaps no structure made by a creature lower than man is so exquisitely perfect as the orb web of the spider…..There should be an orb web where the pupils can observe it, preferably with the spider in attendance.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 44

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More on Daddy Longlegs

We had this daddy longlegs make his web** right on the outside of our window glass. We decided this was the perfect way to observe him as he moved around his web. We could get right up underneath him and look at his body parts. We had already learned that he is not an insect but we still thought he was an interesting subject for our nature study.

From page 434 of the
Handbook of Nature Study:
“In the North, all except one species die at the approach of winter; but not until after the female, which, by the way, ought to be called “granny longlegs.” has laid her eggs in the ground, or under some protecting stone, or in some safe crevice of wood or bark.”“They get their growth like insects, by shedding their skins as fast as they outgrow them. It is interesting to study one of these cast skins with a lens. There it stands with a slit down its back, and with the skin of each leg absolutely perfect to the tiny claw! Again we marvel at these legs that seem so threadlike, and which have an outer covering that can be shed. “

I found one of these exoskeletons in the web of this daddy longlegs. It looked just like the daddy longlegs and I wondered how it slipped its slender legs out of that skin. I read on another website that the daddy longlegs will shed its skin every ten days. I also read that they can grow a new leg if one gets broken….amazing and fascinating.

Page 434:
“Put a grandfather greybeard (daddy longlegs) in a breeding cage or under a large tumbler, and let the pupils observe him at leisure. If you place a few drops of sweetened water at one side of the cage, the children will surely have an opportunity to see this amusing creature clean his legs.”

The Handbook of Nature Study on page 434 also lists out eight activities you can do to observe the daddy longlegs. We are going to give a few of them a try the next time we have a daddy longlegs come to visit.

Here’s my original post on daddy longlegs:
Daddy Longlegs: Not an Insect

**I have since been told that daddy longlegs don’t construct webs. I did some additional research online to find the answer.
Here’s another source that may clear up the mystery and I will just cut and paste from Wikipedia:

“The Pholcidae are a spider family in the suborder Araneomorphae.
Some species, especially Pholcus phalangioides, are commonly called daddy long-legs spider, daddy long-legger, granddaddy long-legs spider, cellar spider, vibrating spider, or house spider. Confusion often arises because the name “daddy longlegs” is also applied to two distantly related arthropod groups: the harvestmen (which are arachnids but not spiders), and crane flies (which are insects).”

Okay, so you *have* to click on the photo to make it larger but you can really see the exoskeleton of the daddy longlegs. I went hunting for one today and I found this one in the eaves of my house….I was trying to take a photo and it blew down onto the potted plant and I thought it made a pretty background.

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Where There is a Web: Fall Webworm

Yesterday we went looking for more insects in our backyard. We saw some more daddy longlegs…actually lots of daddy longlegs. We saw a tiny little spider on the marigolds but he would not hold still for a photo. I took this pretty photo of my marigold anyway. Look closely and you can see the pollen.

Then we found this wonderful web on the crepe myrtle bush. I looked high and low but did not see what made the web. After doing some research, I discovered this to be the web of a Fall Webworm or
Hyphantria cunea. In the larval stage, they create these great webs where they feed entirely inside the web. The adult is a moth that has white wings and has grayish-brown spotting on the forewings.


From page 295 of the Handbook of Nature Study:
“While the young pupils should not be drilled in insect anatomy as if they were embryo zoologists, yet it is necessary for the teacher who would teach intelligently to know something of the life stories, habits, and structure of the common insects.”

I am finding this to be essential to our study of insects. I need to know a little information about each thing we find and weave it into our study. It doesn’t take much time to open the Handbook of Nature Study, skim the table of contents, and turn to the page for more information. I am finding that just having read the introductory pages to the section on insects has provided more than enough information to get started.

From page 295:
“From the eggs, larvae (singular larva) issue. These larvae may be caterpillars, or the creatures commonly called worms, or perhaps maggots or grubs. The larval stage is devoted to feeding and to growth.”

Now I have a little vocabulary to use with the boys when we see caterpillars. I can point out that these are insects in their larval stage and their main objective in life is to eat. We can find this stage annoying when they are eating the leaves of our garden plants but we can understand a little more about it.

We observed a bee dancing in the pollen of a cosmos flower. He was digging into the pollen and practically rolling in it. Here is a slightly blurry photo of him…try to get a bee to sit still. You can see the pollen on his body.

My favorite photo of the day is this one. It is a close-up of my son’s dahlia flower. There had been a little insect on it that I was trying to capture but he was too quick.

Well, that is what we saw and observed yesterday. I am finding the more we look, the more we realize that we have to see.