Lost Ladybug Curriculum Collection

A Collection of Curriculum Ideas from the Lost Ladybug Project

These activities introduce the ideas of biodiversity, conservation, and invasive species.  They can be done in succession or on different days, and the order is flexible.  They are meant to enhance the learning experience of looking for ladybugs in the wild.

Lost Ladybug Coloring Book

The Lost Ladybug Song

Ninespotted Ladybug Poem and Jigsaw Read

Plant, Plant, Ladybug (like Duck, Duck Goose)

Lost Ladybug Bead Game about Sampling - sampling to understand who is living in your area, also concepts: the makeup of different communities means different availability to get jobs done, different vulnerabilities to extinction.

Lost Ladybug Bingo – learn the common ladybugs, prep for sweep netting survey.

Lost Ladybug Concentration (traditional matching game with aphids, plants, and ants) (coming soon)

Lost Ladybug Matching Game (picture to species name)

Lost Ladybug Food Web/Biodiversity Game

Felt World Game about Invasive Species – what is an invasive species, how do they get to a new place, the makeup of different communities means different vulnerabilities to extinction.

Lost Ladybug Recommended Book List 

Draw your own ladybug outline

Words for Ladybug in 30 languages

Diagram of Ladybug Anatomy

Origami Adult Ladybug

Tasty and easy ladybug treats!

Ladybug Hats! (coming soon)

Mapping ones own research questions (coming soon!) like:

            Where have all the _____ spp. been found so far?

            Where have all the native ladybugs been found so far?

            Where have all the exotic ladybugs been found so far?

            In what month of 2008 or 2009 were the most _____ spp found?

            In what habitats were ______ spp found in 2008?


Ant, Aphid, Ladybug  (like Rock, Paper, Scissors)

Plant, Plant, Ladybug (like Duck, Duck Goose)

This game reinforces the roles of ladybugs as predators and aphids as likely prey and was invented by a 9 year old student in one of the first groups collaborating with the Lost Ladybug Project in 2008.  Everyone sits in a circle except for one Aphid who walks around designating, Plant, Plant, Plant, until she or he calls someone a Ladybug!  The Ladybug gets up and the chase is on!  If the Ladybug catches the aphid, the aphid must sit in the middle and the Ladybug becomes the next aphid, and so on until the Ladybugs have eaten all the aphids.

Lost Ladybug Bead Game about Sampling

Quick Demo of Jobs Concept for Games: Toolbox or bag with different tools.

“Here are different tools that people use to do different jobs.

Here’s a hammer for, here’s a screwdriver for, measuring tape for..…..

(Hold up a hammer) So the hammer is good for pounding nails, why don’t we just have lots of hammers, why don’t we fill our toolbox with just hammers? Why do we need all these different tools?

 Each tool does a different job, we need all the tools in order to do lots of different things. Just like each insect in the box we looked at does a different job so we need different kinds of insects, not just bees or just beetles.”

Alternatively ask participants to think of different jobs that people do in their community.

“So if you go somewhere, like a forest or a corn field, how could we find out if we have enough different kinds of insects? …. enough different kinds of insects to get all the jobs done?

Scientists go out and count the different kinds of insects, this is called sampling.

We’re going to play a game that shows how this is done and what you might find.”

Bead Game about Sampling

“We have different color beads in each bowl, we can pretend each color is a different kind of insect.  We can take a scoop or sample from a bowl and find out if the bowl has enough different kinds of pretend-insects.”

Divide children about equally next to bowls of beads and have each child take one spoonful of beads and put it on their plate.

Have each child divide their beads by color and count each color.

A data taker or each child writes down their data on data sheet provided on a clipboard.

A data taker or whole small group adds up how many of each color they have found.

Leader or small group reports their data to the black board or large paper. (Put bowls as columns and colors as rows.)

Direct entire group to look at results as they are being put up.

What do you notice about these numbers? How many different kinds of insects are in bowl A? bowl B? bowl C?

Each groups bowl will have a very different ratio of colors, one with equal numbers of all colors, one with lots of one color and very few of the other three colors, one with only two colors.

Discuss how the numbers of different kinds of pretend –bead -insects differed between the bowls, always connecting with different kinds of insects have different jobs.

“If you have equal numbers of each then all the jobs are getting done.  If you have lots of one kind and just a few of another kind maybe all the jobs are getting done but something could happen to the insects with low numbers and jobs would not get done.  If you have lots of insects but only two kinds then those jobs are getting done very well but others are not.” 

Final questions for group: what would bowl B and bowl C need to do to get all the jobs done? Older students could work this out on paper.

What if another color was added to one bowl?  What if another kind of insect suddenly arrived?

Let’s see what would happen to the other insects.

Felt World Game about Invasive Species

“In this game let’s pretend the different colored squares are different kinds of ladybugs.”

Hand out cards, one per child. If you have extra cards give some to class helpers or have some of the early players play again later.

Cards have a Continent Number and a sample of one felt color on the front, on the back is a drawing of one of the ways insects travel.

As you are handing out cards, ask and have children shout out ideas:

“How might a new kind of ladybug get from it’s home to a new place?  How do insects travel???”

Explain the cards, point out the continents on felt world and their inhabitants,

Then have the children take turns going up to felt world, going to the continent number that matches their card and removing the color felt square that matches the swatch on their card. Collect these squares as they are removed. Then the child takes a felt piece from the continent with all one color and moves it to the continent number on their card, replacing the square they removed.  Finally the child shows and tells the group how their “invader” traveled to the new continent by describing and holding up the back of their card.  Some cards are wild cards with a “?”, so the child can make up how their invader ladybug traveled to the new continent.

When all the cards have been played have the children talk about the new mixture of colors or ladybugs on each continent and the world: on one continent some colors will be totally missing, on another other colors will coexist with many invaders. (Discussion points still under construction, will be expanded.)

Refer to the poster again and point out C9, “remember this ladybug C9? The one that seems to be lost, that no one can find anymore?

We need your help! It’s your turn to be scientists and try to find C9!

Let’s go outside and see what we find.”

Ladybug snack for any age!

Put strawberry cream cheese on a round or oval cracker or English muffin etc. put raisins on to make spots….if you want to get fancy add black licorice for antennae… etc

Foodweb Biodiversity Game

Supplies:   a copy of the Food Web Game Plan showing how  the game works for representative small, medium, and large groups of participants.  This will show the appropriate number of  half-page size owls, toads, ladybugs (3 species: twospotted, eye-spot, and three-banded), aphids, and plants that you will need to print out for the the right number of printed or drawn owls, toads, ladybugs, aphids, and plants.

a single hole punch


How the Food Web Game Works:

1.        Please look at the Food Web Game Plan as you read along.  Let's start with Round ONE for a small number of participants.  This would be shown in the upper left part of the spreadsheet.

To follow the sequence described in the spreadsheet know that ,for the sake of the game, predation begins at the top of this food chain.  And  let's say:

You have One Owl that eats 2 Toads (Predation rate = 2, cell #D3). 

After predation there is still One Owl and now only One Toad (cell #E4). 

Each Toad would eat 2 Ladybugs.  But now there is only One Toad so this toad eats 2 of the 4 (cell #C5) Ladybugs, leaving 2 Ladybugs (cell #E5). 

Each of the 2 Ladybugs (one of each species) eats 2 aphids, leaving only one aphid (cell #E6). 

Each aphid eats 6 plants.  But now there is only one Aphid left and therefore 9 - 6 = 3 plants get eaten.

That's the First Part of Round One. 

2.        Now you have One Owl that does not reproduce or "recruit" (call in more owls) very fast, so reproductive rate = 0 (cell #G3), so Generation 2 still has only One Owl in it (cell #H3).

There is One Toad with a recruitement (by reproduction or calling in) rate of 2.  So, 1 + 2 new = 3 Toads in Generation 2 (cell #H4)

There are 2 Ladybugs (one of each species) with a recruitment rate of 1 each.  So, 2 + 2 = 4 Ladybugs (2 of each species) in Generation 2 (cell #H5).

There is One Aphid with a recruitment rate of 4.  So 1 + 4 = 5 Aphids in Generation 2.

There are 3 plants with recruitment rates of 2.  So, 3 + 6 = 9 Plants.  

Voila!  This is a STABLE Population!

3.         Round Two is played the same way except that the ladybugs have all been eliminated by something other than the Toads.  Aphids take over for a while. Disaster for the Plants. 

4.         Round Three allows for only ONE species (half the number) of Ladybugs to participate.  In real life predation and reproductive rates do no stay exactly the same with changes in population numbers.  So, here we have also slightly changed these rates.  Predation rates for toads is less because now it is harder to find ladybugs.  Predation rates for ladybugs is higher because there is more prey available to fewer ladybugs.  The result, by the second generation, looks almost stable.  But the difference that should be discussed is that if now there are fewer species of ladybugs, then the possibility for one factor (e.g. disease) to drastically reduce the population is much increased.  This will lead to the results they have seen in Round Two.

The take home message is if you have any trophic level comprised of a single species it can be vulnerable to a sudden decline and then you lose stability.  Different species are more likely to have varying vulnerabilities (e.g. to disease or weather conditions) and thus not decline at the same rate due to a single mortality source.  Higher diversity acting in concert with density dependence (e.g., in predation and reproductive rates) leads to a lower probability that a sudden perturbation will destabilize a community of organisms.  In other words:  Diversity =Stability.


How to Play the Food Web Game:

1.         Determine the size range that your group falls within (e.g. a group with 41 individuals would be a Medium group).

2.         Get ready by calculating the right number of owls, toads, ladybugs, aphids, and plants to start the game and printing or drawing these on paper or cardstock.  If the group is small, the aphids and plants can be manipulated by the students without anyone wearing them.

3.         The students can put one hole punch on either side of the pictures and string yarn through these so that they can wear the pictures around their necks..

4.         Designate individuals to be the plants and animals in the Initial population.

--- If you have fewer participants than the total number of plants and animals in the Initial population, then represent some animals or plants with pictures or other objects (e.g. toy toads).

--- If you have more participants than the total number of plants and animals in the Initial population, then allow some to be observers in the first round of predation.  They can join in during the first round of reproduction.

--- Note that you should start with equal numbers of two species of ladybugs.

OBSERVATION: What do you observe about the shape of the web and the numbers in each level?  Why do you think the web has this particular shape?

5.         Starting with the highest trophic level (an owl in our example) let predation begin.  In our example the owl starts by "eating" the number of toads specified in the predation rate column (e.g. 2 for the small group size).  Toads that are eaten should stand off to the side and surrender their roles to any observers that have not yet been part of the web.  The uneaten toads then prey on ladybugs and the game continues on through to the lowest predation level (e.g. aphids eating plants).

6.         Surviving individuals then "recruit" new members.  Note that recruitment can occur through either reproduction or immigration into the area.  Observers from the first round should be the first recruits for the next round.

7.         Repeat for 2-3 generations.

OBSERVATION: What is happening to this food web?  Is this food web stable and "sustainable"?  Why would a stable food web be a good thing?

8.         Simulate a sudden disappearance of all ladybugs by having them all exit the web.  Begin the predation and recruitment with the ladybugs absent.  (Note that you may not have enough prey or recruits - calculate what the numbers would be.)

OBSERVATION: Did the toads have enough to eat?  What happened to the aphids and plants?  Is this food web stable?

9.         Assuming only one species of ladybug was effected by whatever caused the disappearance and other plants and animals are at initial levels, begin predation and recruitment again.  (Repeat observation above.)

10.       Now start again with half the ladybugs (e.g. one species) and all other plants and animals at initial levels but with the adjusted rates provided?

OBSERVATION: How did the rates of predations and recruitment change?  Why might they have changed like that?  Compare numbers after recruitment to initial population numbers.  Is this food web headed back to stability?  What does this imply about having multiple ladybug species (or species at any trophic level) instead of just one?