Objective: Children will explore ladybugs, including their life cycle, and make ladybug prints.
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What You Will Need
- Clear plastic containers with lids (punch small holes in the lids) – 2 per table (see Lesson Tips)
- Ladybugs – 3 per container (see Lesson Tips)
- Mushroom slices – 2 per container (see Lesson Tips)
- Magnifying glasses – 1 per child
- Simple diagram of the four-stage life cycle of an insect (see Lesson Tips)
- Pictures of a variety of insects (such as a ladybug, bee, firefly, crickets, or butterflies)
- Red ink pads – 1 per 2 children
- White construction paper (9" × 12") – 1 sheet per child
- Black fine tip markers – 1 per 2 children
What To Do
Note: Prior to the start of the lesson, place the ladybugs in the containers, and punch tiny holes in the lids. Add the mushroom slices to each container to keep the ladybugs active during the exploration.
- Display the pictures of the insects.
- Discuss how the insects are similar and how they are different (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
- Distribute the magnifying glasses, and set the containers of ladybugs on the tables.
- Have the children use the magnifying glasses to examine the ladybugs.
- Ask the children to explain how they know that the ladybug is an insect (because it has three body parts, two eyes, two antennae, and six legs).
- Discuss the life cycle of a ladybug, how ladybugs are helpful, and the colors of the ladybug (see Did You Know?).
- Tell the children that they will be making prints of adult ladybugs.
- Distribute construction paper and ink pads to the children.
- Demonstrate pressing your thumb on the red ink pad and making thumbprints on the white paper. Then, show the children how to use the black marker to add dots, antennae, and six legs to each thumbprint to turn it into a ladybug.
- Lend assistance to the children as they make their thumbprints and then use the markers to turn their thumbprints into ladybugs.
Guiding Student Inquiry
- Tell me how all of these insects are the same and how they are different.
- Explain how you know that ladybugs are insects.
- Describe the life cycle of a ladybug.
- Explain how ladybugs are helpful.
- Tell me why ladybugs are brightly colored.
Explore, Extend & Integrate
- Include ladybugs in science discussions about other insects.
- Search online for pictures of ladybugs in each stage of their life cycle. Print the pictures, and place them in the science center for the children to sequence.
- Compare the life cycle of a ladybug to the life cycle of the children.
- Compare the life cycle of a butterfly to the life cycle of a ladybug. Discuss similarities and differences.
- Provide pictures of ladybugs and magnifying glasses at your science center.
Check for Children’s Understanding
- Could children explain how they know that ladybugs are insects?
- Could children describe the life cycle of a ladybug?
- Could children explain how ladybugs are helpful?
- Could children describe the colors of a ladybug and why their colors are so bright?
- Did each child make thumbprint ladybugs?
Did You Know?
The life cycle of a ladybug is very similar to the life cycle of a butterfly. Both insects go through what is called a complete metamorphosis. Stage 1 is when the egg is laid; the eggs hatch in 3–5 days. Stage 2, the larva stage, lasts 20–30 days, and they eat a tremendous amount of food—mostly aphids. A larva looks very different from an adult ladybug. In Stage 3, the larva becomes a pupa. In this stage, the larva excretes a substance that hardens, and then the larva pupates, or goes through its final change, inside that hard covering. In 3–12 days, the adult ladybug will emerge; this is the fourth and final stage of development. The complete metamorphosis of a ladybug lasts between 4 and 8 weeks.
When the ladybug first emerges from its hard covering, it will have a soft pink shell for several hours. As the shell hardens, it usually becomes bright red. However, not all ladybugs are red, and not all ladybugs have spots! Scientists believe that the bright colors and spots are meant to let birds know not to eat them because they taste bad. Ladybugs are very helpful in the garden because they eat garden pests like aphids that can destroy other plants. Most ladybugs live about 1 year and can eat up to 5,000 aphids in their lifetime!
- ladybug – a small, round beetle that is red or orange and usually has black spots.
- life cycle – the sequence of changes that a living thing goes through as it grows and develops.
- metamorphosis – the complete changes that some living things go through as they grow.
- larva – an insect after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into an adult.
- pupa – an insect in a middle stage of its development, after it is a larva.
- aphid – a small insect that eats by sucking the juices of plants.
- If you do not have access to real ladybugs, use pictures of ladybugs instead. Using pictures will eliminate the need for plastic containers and mushrooms.
- Search online for a simple four-stage ladybug life cycle diagram that includes egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- Have the children wear smocks to protect their clothing.
- When the children are finish examining the ladybugs, release the ladybugs to the outdoors.
- A Ladybug’s Life by John Himmelman
- Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth
- The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
- Ladybugs by Monica Hughes
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Common Core State
These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge.
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There are currently no Common Core Standards for pre-k, but these lessons are aligned as closely as possible to capture the requirements and meet the goals of Common Core Standards. However, these lessons were neither reviewed or approved by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices or the Council of Chief State School Officers, which together are the owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards.