bugs, Scientist, Taxidermy

The Bug Box

01.19.09 | 7 Comments

At the end of his chapter on taxidermy Daniel Beard had the victorian charm to add two brief paragraphs on building a box in which a boy could breed butterflies or moths.  The sketch for this box was drawn by someone named Lawrence, so the box is called  the Lawrence Breeding Box.  The box that Beard and Lawrence suggest can be broken down into individual walls and stored.  This is what in design school we would have termed “knock-down furniture”.  “Knock-down” is pretty much the fate of everything around little boys, so instead of trying to create a permanent box, we just used materials at hand and focused on the process of constructing a box of sorts.  We tried to learn a smidge about the biological cycle that the breeding box is meant to let us observe, and we simplified the name of the device, we now call it The Bug Box.

First we found  sturdy shoe box and painted it.  Seth spent a long time detailing the inside of the box.  He made paths for the bugs, and a few doors.  He first started with natural colors like green and brown so that the bugs would feel at home.  However, his palette soon expanded to include reds and oranges which he assured me would make the bugs happy.

After the box dried over night, I used an Exacto knife to freehand cut out two windows on the top and front of the bug box.  We then laid it on top of a piece of crop cover.  Crop cover is a sort of semi translucent perforated plastic fabricy stuff that you put over seedlings to keep moisture and heat in.  You could also use fine screening from the hardware store.  However, it cost money and we did not want to take that route.

Seth marked the edges of the box with a pen, and cut out the rectangle piece of “screening”.

Gluing the “screening to the inside of the windows was quite exciting.  Seth has just graduated from that phase of life where simply pouring one glob of glue in the same spot on the already soggy paper is a feet of sheer strength and psychological muster.  Infact, Seth just recently perfected the art of squeezing glue without drooling at the same time – thank goodness.  Needless to say he was ready to lay down clean lines of glue, not to mention lines with purpose.  From there we simply inserted the “screening” patted it down and left it to dry.

Now on to the good part – the bugs.  We talked about caterpillars and how they become butterflies or moths.  We searched high and low everywhere, but January is simply not caterpillar season.  We gave up the hunt to dig instead.  This was a great twist of fate because low and behold our finished compost pile is filled with grubs.  Some of the grubs were in the process of metamorphosing into jerusalem crickets.  Seth felt that burgeoning jerusalem crickets fit the bill, so in they went.  It took one night, but they arranged their new dirt to their liking.

By now you are probably expecting the cool shot with the overhead spot on the pile of dirt in the finished box right?  That is the shot I was expecting after bed time too.  However, I had to go out into the yard with a flash light to find the bug box (it had been taken out to the play house for a nesting session that Seth and his friend Naia had today – all very unboysalmanac).  I could have gotten the shot, but as luck would have it Seth broke the tines in my card reader earlier this evening, and the snapshot camera has a corrupt card…so I promise to capture this parting shot at a later date and add closure to this post.  We will also find out what jerusalem crickets eat and try to keep our little grubs alive, because bugs can not live on the joy of red paint alone.


By the next morning the grubs had crawled out of the dirt and were scooching around the floor of the box trying to find a suitalble place to burrow.  Jerusalem crickets like the cool underground soil, so a shallow dish of soil inside a house was probably too hot for them.  We looked at our grubs closely one more time and put them back where we found them.  We will keep our eye out for caterpillars and try the bug box out again – stay tuned!

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