Kids hunting for ladybugs is not only a fun activity, its become a real way to save the species. Native ladybugs are declining in many areas of the country, so young amateur entomologists are learning about the insects as well as helping to save them.
Eight children all under the age of 10 learned how to learned how to do field work for the international Lost Ladybug Project Lake Crabtree County Park near Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Along with their parents and other adults, they learned many things in a three hour course taught by Assistant Park Manager Colleen Bockhahn. They learned about the life cycle of the ladybug, and how to tell the native from non native species that may be displacing them. They also learned about the valuable role ladybugs play in eating pests and mold off crops. Bockhahn also showed them where to look for ladybugs and how to best take photos of the ones they find to report to the scientists in New York who are running the project.
Bettina Adams-Melvin of Morrisville had brought her two daughters.
“They watch a lot of nature shows,” she said. “And I wanted them to get started on research sooner rather than later.”
Despite the tender age of many of the program’s thousands of participants across North America, the questions they’re helping researchers tackle are serious.
The Lost Ladybug Project is one of the largest “citizen science” efforts in the world. A Cornell University researcher started it 14 years ago because he had noticed that native ladybugs in New York seemed to have become scarce.
Now, with the support of a $2 million National Science Foundation Grant, the project relies on thousands of amateurs to feed it photos of ladybugs and information about where they were found, and its mission has come to include educating kids about how science works even as they participate in it.