Creepy-Crawlies 101: Teaching Kids to Care for Texas Insects

Caterpillars, ants, and worms might be considered creepy-crawlies, but they’re an important part of the Texas ecosystem. And while they might cause the heebie-jeebies at first, they’re a great way to teach kids about caring for creatures of all sizes (and cuteness).

Here’s how you and your kids can get started raising three different kinds of Texas insects.

Butterflies

Butterfly eggs can usually be found on milkweed in early spring. Once they hatch, caterpillars need potted, chemical-free milkweed, which serves as their food source. Place the plant inside or on the porch and allow the caterpillars to thrive in the pot.

Eventually, the caterpillars will seek out a shady place to make their cocoons, which hang vertically in place and look like beautiful gemstones. In about two weeks, they are ready to hatch. After emerging, they will hang vertically for two hours before their wings are ready to fly. Once they’ve dried off and built up some confidence, it’s time to release the butterflies back into the wild.

Check out our tips on building a butterfly garden, so you can create a hospitable outdoor environment for your butterflies to visit. 

Ants

Finding an ant farm can be fun, like a scavenger hunt set up by nature. Different ant species mate at different times of the year — autumn is a great time for finding Labor Day ants, which are abundant and harmless to humans.

The easiest way to start an ant farm is to catch a pregnant queen ant in the wild. She will usually be larger than the average working ant and will have long wings protruding from her thorax. If you spot one, coax her into a test tube; place her in a dark, cool area; and leave her alone until she gives birth. After that, you can transfer the ant family into a larger ant farm (usually available at local pet stores). With your ants safely exploring their new habitat, keep them happy and fed by providing them with small amounts of food such as oats, fruit, sugar cubes, and little amounts of water.

Silkworms

Silkworms are perhaps the easiest Texas insect to look after. Silkworms are the larva of moths, and spin cocoons of silk fibers. Today they are only found in captivity. Silkworms will grow depending on how much food they eat, and their diet consists exclusively of mulberry leaves. It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly when handling the leaves, because they are susceptible to bacteria. It is also important to keep their container dry and free of mold. Any plastic container can be a suitable home to a silkworm, but you can find a great starter kit here.

Keep in mind that not all Texas insects should be welcome in your home. Browse our list of insects and pests that will only bug you.

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