Examining the Insects in a Patch of Goldenrod
Goldenrod is plentiful around here this time of year. The golden blooms cover the fields and ditches. The flowers and the insects that live in and on them make the perfect fall nature study.
To begin our nature study, we learned about the different types of galls that are found on goldenrod. You can’t study goldenrod without learning about galls! The types of galls and their ubiquitous presence on goldenrod make them an obvious choice of study.
I read a few articles about galls on goldenrod. Here is one on the types of goldenrod galls to get you started. I learned that galls are formed when the goldenrod gall fly lays its eggs inside the stem or flower of the goldenrod plant. This causes the plant to swell, making a home for the larvae. Different kinds of galls are found on different goldenrod species. That could be a nature study in itself.
I find that if you want to teach your children something, you need to know it yourself first. That way you can bring it up during your time outdoors. You can naturally bring up the subject by using questions.
- What do you think those funny growths on the stems are?
- How do they feel? Let’s feel them to find out.
- What do you think is inside them?
Our Time in the Field
Then we set some time aside to observe the insects that visit a small patch of goldenrod. We pulled out our watercolors for this and sketched what we observed. We don’t always do this, but drawing something helps you observe it more closely.
I wasn’t sure we’d see many insects because it was a cold day, but we saw bees, snails, and a caterpillar. We almost missed the caterpillar because its green and yellow body blended in perfectly.
I also noticed small round growths in among the goldenrod flowers. It didn’t look like any of the goldenrod galls I’d seen, so I thought maybe it was a seed pod. I pried one open and was surprised to see a bright orange worm inside. The picture below is of the tiny green galls that house the orange larvae.
We added all these to our journal page.
After our Nature Study
After I came home, I did a little more research and found that there are many more gall types than I previously thought.
This reminded me of a quote that I read recently:
“Do not wander in remote places or in foreign lands merely to find nature; she is at your door. Touch the things near at hand: you will then understand the things far away. The first consideration of special study should be the inhabitants of your yard and garden: they are yours; or if they are not yours, you are not living a real life. Do you wish to study botany? There are weeds in your dooryard or trees on your lawn. You say that they are not interesting: that is because you do not know them.” L. H. Bailey
I think I have enough blank space on my journal page to add it.
If you don’t have goldenrod handy, you could easily do this fall nature study with any other patch of flowers. You’d be surprised how many flowers are home to galls, so don’t overlook the insects that may be hidden away.
This activity was one of the activities on the September nature calendar. A lot of people have asked me what age the studies would be good for. I hope this gives you an idea of how you could adapt the lessons for all ages.
Do you have goldenrod in your area? What insects have you discovered on them? Did you know about goldenrod galls?
If you’re looking for more fall nature study ideas, check out my “Month in Nature” calendars.