Pet Insect Terrariums: Creating A Bug Terrarium With Kids

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Terrariums for keeping plants are trendy, but what if you had some other organisms in there? Pet insect terrariums are gaining increasing popularity. You need to create the right environment for the little friends, but just a few simple items make this an easy and fun project to do with kids.

About Keeping Insects in a Terrarium

A terrarium is essentially an enclosed garden. They usually include plants that prefer humidity and indirect light. With the right plants and insects together, you can create a more complete ecosystem.

Keeping wild animals as pets is not ethical, and while there is some leeway for insects, help kids understand this general idea. Give kids the message that this is not an insect pet enclosure so much as a natural ecosystem for study. Also, consider keeping the bug only for a short time before releasing it again.  

Before selecting the type of insect to keep in a terrarium, know the maintenance requirements. Some, like millipedes, will only need plant matter and moisture. Others, like mantids, need to be fed smaller insects daily. Also, avoid choosing exotic or non-native species in case they escape.

How to Make a Bug Terrarium

Making a bug terrarium with kids is a fun science project for hands-on learning. You’ll need a clear container that is big enough for the chosen insects. It should also have some way to let air in. For instance, if you use a fishbowl, cover with plastic wrap with a few holes.

A screen top or netting of some kind or cheesecloth works as well. An old food jar with holes punched in the top is an option for temporary use. You’ll also need gravel or sand, soil, and plants and other natural materials.

  • Research your insect. First, choose the type of insect you want to study. Anything from the backyard will do, but find out what it eats and the types of plants in its habitat. Be sure not to select anything that could be poisonous or harmful for your child.
  • Prepare the terrarium. Clean the container thoroughly and dry it before adding a drainage layer of pebbles, gravel, or sand. Layer soil over the top.
  • Add plants. If you have picked up an insect from the yard, root plants from the same area. Weeds work well, as there is no need for anything fancy or costly.
  • Add more plant material. Your insects will benefit from some additional natural materials, like dead leaves and sticks, for cover and shade.
  • Add the insects. Collect one or more insects and add them to the terrarium.
  • Add moisture and food as needed. Keep the terrarium moist with regular spritzes of water.

If you plan on keeping your terrarium for more than a week, you will need to clean it. Check on it once a week for signs of mold or rot, remove any old and uneaten foods, and replace plant material and food as needed.

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