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Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Egg-hunts for Easter? That’s so old hat. Instead, Josie (a.k.a Super ladybug) and I have decided to go on a backyard bug-hunt.

Super ladybug.

Super ladybug a.k.a. Josie!

We’ve had some lovely bug close encounters just recently. It’s that wonderful time of year when we are harvesting our autumn crops, cutting back shrubs and trees ready for winter, and as we do so, we are uncovering some cool critters.

Like this amazing praying mantis that we found on the basil! He was pretty feisty, boxing at us with all his might, which just showed off the wonderful blue spots on the insides of his legs that identified him as New Zealand’s native mantis.

NZ praying mantis.

Josie meets a praying mantis

And our swan plants that we planted this summer are still producing crops of Monarch – this one landed on Josie’s knee to dry its wings! I haven’t quite convinced myself to plant onga onga nettle though – I know it’s a favourite of red admirals but it seems slightly bizarre to plant tree nettle in a home garden!

Josie and Monarch.

Josie and Monarch.

That is of course the best way to welcome insects – plant up your garden with plants that insects like.  Butterflies are attracted by lots of nectar and so like plants with flowers to rest and land on. The NZbutterfly website has some detailed fact sheets about each species of butterfly and what plants they like. Bees also like lots of nectar and they are pretty handy for pollinating flowers.  Native shrubs like Olearia, hebes, shrubby tororaro, and pittosporums like kōhūhu and tarata / lemonwood are all favourites of insects.

red admiral.

Red admiral

Of course anyone with a compost heap and vege garden would welcome worms as they help with important jobs like aerating the soil. Areas of long grass or hedges become refuges for insects to over-winter in and a good layer of mulch or leaf litter on the garden will also encourage insects.

So, to find out how insect-friendly our garden really is, we decided to see what else we could find. On the Department of Conservation website we found instructions on how to make two really cool traps to catch insects.

And to keep ourselves busy while waiting for our traps to catch something, we had a go at an inside insect hunt as well.

We made some rainbow rice, thanks to this great recipe from happy hooligans.

Bugs hiding in rainbow rice.

The bugs are hiding in rainbow rice!

I buried the bugs in the rice and then Josie “hunted” them down. Josie was so funny – she carefully uncovered by random scattering of insects, and then carefully placed them in lines – one line per rainbow stripe. Then she covered them back up again! She has a wonderful sense of order.

Happy entomologist.

Josie is a happy entomologist - even if she can't say the word!

I thought William would be too old for this activity but no, he was right into it as well. His approach was to pull all the bugs out, smooth the rice down with the back of a spoon. He then placed the bugs on top of the rice, grouping them by colour – which he then said was camouflage!

William uncovers the bugs.

William on the hunt for bugs

Anyway, we can’t wait ‘til Easter Sunday to check our potato traps – let the bug hunt begin!

Colour-coded camo bugs.

Colour-coded camo bugs as sorted by William.

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New track in Arthur's Pass.

New track in Arthur's Pass through sub-alpine wetland.

It’s weird I know but mountains are really good places to find wetlands. Arthur’s Pass National Parkhas got a great new track that runs from the village to Jack’s Hut and it passes through forest into sub-alpine wetlands. It’s a great place to see sundews, the tiny carnivorous plants that like to snare insects with their sticky leaves and eat them! Look out for giant dragonflies whizzing around like mini helicopters and if you see weird holes in the ground it may have been a kiwi probing for food. Arthur’s Pass is a two hour drive from Christchurch on SH 73.

Of course you don’t have to leave town to find wetlands as Christchurch was built on top of one! Around the city are little pieces of wetland that have been restored by communities and groups. Bexley, Travis and Otukaikino are all great wetlands with wacky plants that like wet feet such as flaxes, rushes and grasses. They have all changed recently after our earthquakes but that’s interesting to see as well.
Or if you have pre-schoolers who prefer to celebrate World Wetlands Day at home, why not look up some pictures of animals that live in wetlands and sing this action song!

Swamp romp (Suggested actions)

Let’s go on a swamp romp
(Walk on the spot with a stomping action)
There’s lots to see on a swamp romp
You never know who you might meet
(hands above eyes, searching)
But one things for sure, they’ll have wet feet
(Pick up feet and shake)
On a swamp romp, swamp romp

Look there’s …

Pukeko, swamp hen is a red-legged rail
(Put your hand in the small of your back and flick it around)
As he struts his stuff he flicks his tail

Fernbird, matata plays hide and seek
(Hold fingers in front of face your back and flick it around)
Amongst the reeds she likes to peek

Slippery eel, tuna fish    (Wriggle arms and body)
Wriggling about with a splosh, splash, splish

Inanga, whitebait likes to roam
(Put hands together and swim them like a fish)
They swim upstream to a forest home

Raupo bullrush grows very high
(Stretch hands and arms up)
Its roots are wet but its pods are dry

There’s more to see on a swamp romp
(Walk on the spot with a stomping action)
Come with me on a swamp romp
Tread gently and you’ll find
(Change stomp to a tip toe)
You will not leave a print behind
On a swamp romp, swamp romp

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