The other day, I stumbled upon a company whose products I thought my 7-year-old daughter would love, and I ordered a few items so we could try them out. As many readers know, we spend a lot of our summers exploring the insects in my parents’ Massachusetts backyard. Backyard Safari makes inexpensive products for families who share our interests. Some border on gimmicky, but all are meant to enhance young people’s explorations of nature.
My daughter loved and used both. The Bug Watch can hold as many as half a dozen small critters, and we used it for a moth, a tiny ant, and, separately, a dragonfly. (The red beetle in the photo at right is a sticker, not an actual bug). The tiny ant escaped into my daughter’s hair as we ate ice cream one day, so I don’t recommend it for anything small enough to climb through one of the air holes.
The Bug Vacuum is perfect for catching fireflies at night. You aim its cone-shaped nose at an insect that’s flying around or sitting on a leaf and it sucks it into a transparent chamber where you can view it through a magnifying lens. It works best on small, light bugs such as tiny moths or ants. The vacuum also comes with a pop-up field guide that identifies some of the most common backyard insects and warns kids away from dangerous ones. While its a handy intro, I'd recommend looking up any unidentified insects on the excellent BugGuide.net. Happy bug hunting.