We found an old wasp nest over the weekend that was left over from last year. So of course the kids wanted to learn more about them. So I promised to teach them about wasps this week.
Okay let me first start off by saying that there are little to no lesson plans out there for wasps. I find this rather sad. When I looked for butterfly lesson plan ideas there was no shortage. I know wasps sting and are generally considered a nuisance but they are still an important part of our world. So this is going to be a post to help out other homeschoolers who like to pick a focus for their children.
Basic wasp facts:
There are over 20,000 different species worldwide. They have the normal insect structures of head, thorax, and abdomen. They also have 6 legs (3 on each side). They also go through a metamorphosis just like moths and butterflies. Their life cycle goes through egg, grub, pupae, and then adult. However not all wasps have wings, not all of them sting, and not all of them live in social colonies. They vary in their diets from species to species and based on age. Wasps hibernate during the winter in colder climates. Some cultures eat wasps (specifically the grubs).
Some plants are entirely reliant on only wasps for pollination. For example fig trees. Although all sorts of wasps pollinate all sorts of different plants. Another benefit wasps provide us is reduced numbers of other insects. If you don't like spiders then many solitary parasitic wasps are your friend. A great number of solitary wasps lay their eggs either on or in spiders and insects they have hunted, stung, and brought back to their nest.
Wasps nests can be very diverse. There are wasps that build their nests out of paper or mud, and also those who burrow into the ground.
Wasps eat nectar, honeydew, fruit, and other insects. Depending on the wasp and depending on what stage of the life cycle they are in. If you are interested in more specifics in this area then pick a category of wasps and research it further. There is to much information on this topic for me to go into much more detail about it here. It is fascinating though and worth learning about. Just don't google wasps and fruit or you might see some things that will make you think twice about grabbing an apple straight off a tree. Or any fruit for that matter.
Wasps actually have facial recognition and each wasps has it's own unique variance in face and pattern. These differences may appear small to us but to them it lets them differentiate between each other and know who is friend or foe and who is who in their own colony. Don't believe it? Check out this link here for an interesting article and a real picture of some of the facial differences between a group of wasps. The above link talks about the facial aspect of this but not the pattern in stripes. The stripes are something I personally have noticed as being different between wasps within the same species. You maybe able to find an article about it somewhere if you wish but I don't know where. If you find a link please feel free to share it.
There is a lot more to learn about wasps but this is a good starting point for children I think. Just please be sure you impress that there is a difference between wasps and bees. I'm not sure why but a lot of people don't seem to get that. I'm sure there will be a bee lesson here soon though. ;-)
Suggestions on wasps you should research with your kids. Some of these are general names for a larger family of wasps:
Giant Asian Hornet
Garuda Wasp (newly discovered and kind of scary looking)
Here are some links with ideas for games for small children:
Kids Wasp Activities
Wasp or Bee Activities for children
I also happened across this blog after we already did out lesson of course. I felt it was worth mentioning as there is some good info there and it shoes how empowering it can be for kids to learn about something even if it's something they think is scary at first.
So how do you feel about wasps? Did this change your feelings for them at all? Is this lesson at all helpful to you?