Insect Investigation

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life sciences, art, language arts






several class periods


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Before their visit, students will learn ... the basic body plan of insects.

Background Information

The body of an insect [definition], such as a grasshopper [graphic] or fly [graphic], has three distinct parts. These are the head, the thorax [definition] (the middle part) and the abdomen (the rear section). All three sections are covered with a hard substance called a cuticle.

On the head, most insects have a large pair of eyes and a pair of delicate "feelers" called antennae [definition]. The mouth parts are just at the bottom of the insect's head, opposite the eyes.

Attached to the thorax are three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings. On grasshoppers the first two pairs of legs are for walking and the third pair of legs are for jumping. The wings are under cover. The first pair are long, narrow and rather stiff. The lower wings are delicate, transparent and fanlike.

On house flies, all the legs are for walking. The first pair of wings are for flying. The second pair have been modified and help provide balance when the fly is flying.

The abdomen [definition] is made of many sections (segments) and each segment has many tiny openings. These open ings exist in pairs, one on each side of the segment. The openings are called spiracles [definition], and it is through these that the grasshopper breathes.

This activity gives your students a closer look at insects.



  • a large jar.
  • a square of cheesecloth.
  • a rubber band.
  • one or more grasshoppers.


What is an insect? What makes it different from a dog or a human?

How does an insect live? What does an insect need to survive?


  1. Place the grasshopper in a large jar with fresh grass and twigs.
  2. Note: as the grass dies, add fresh grass with drops of water on it. Grass growing in a little piece of dirt stays fresher longer.
  3. Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth secured by a rubber band
  4. Have students use a hand lens to examine the grasshopper in the jar.
  5. Have them identify the body parts and draw what they see.
  6. Have them write down the behaviors of the grasshopper that they observe.
  7. Collect or purchase other insects (house fly, cricket, etc.) and have students compare observations of the new insects to their grasshopper observations.


How is an insect different from people?

How does a grasshopper differ from a house fly?

Adapted from

Hanauer, E. Biology Experiments for Children. New York, Dover Publications, Inc., 1962.

Additional Sources

O'Toole, Christopher. Alien Empire. 1st ed., New York: HarperCollins, 1995.