The Lost Ladybug Project.

More on that citizen science bug thats been nibbling at our time. The Lost Ladybug Project (LLP) is a wonderful citizen science project for all age groups and it is especially appealing to parents and teachers of children in grades PreK-6. Why? Unlike more complex citizen science projects, this one is designed so that even young children can participate in every aspect of the scientific research.

Developed in 2000 by entomologists at Cornell University, participants in the project help locate and identify North American ladybug species that were once common but have become rare over the past 20 years or so. The nine-spotted ladybug is one example. What is happening to these native ladybugs?

The entomologists theorize that competition from invasive species, hybridization with non-native ladybugs, or environmental factors such as climate change may be affecting the populations. Citizen scientists are helping Cornell find answers, so that the entomologists can take measures to increase the native ladybug populations.

Getting involved in the project is easy. Participants look for ladybugs using the field guides and other identification tools provided on the Lost Ladybug website. Early summer is the best time, but it depends on your location. Participants can either locate the ladybugs on plants, use sweep nets to collect from a grassy area, or attract the insects to sheets. Once collected, the ladybugs are “chilled” for a few minutes to slow their movement. This part of the process makes observation and identification much easier for young children.

Now comes the best part. The citizen “researcher” takes digital photographs of the ladybugs and then uploads the images to the LLP website, complete with field collection information such as date, time, location and habitat. That’s about it for the basic contribution to the project, but there are plenty of inquiry-based activities listed on the website for more in-depth involvement. As of this month, participants of the Lost Ladybug Project have contributed 13,748 ladybugs to the project. The contribution of citizen scientists to ladybug research is evident; the LLP now holds one of the largest and most geographically diverse databases of ladybug information in the world.

Of course, LLP comes with free learning resources, including an All About Ladybugs handout, a snappy Lost Ladybug Song, a Basic LLP Field Guide, a standards-based lesson plan, a Draw your own ladybug coloring sheet, info on how to find, collect, and identify lady bugs, a handout on how to make your own sweep net, 30 ladybug bingo cards, and so much more.

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