Engaging Curiosity: Discovering Ladybird Larvae

I discovered, by accident, what ladybird larvae look like. Let me describe for you why this is so important to me. One of my personal development goals for this year was to finish reading The Curious Classroom by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels on how to foster curiosity and inquiry in a classroom with the hopes of applying those ideas to camps and school programming. After finishing the book, the main message stuck. I must first engage my own curiosity and lead by example, to show how fun it is to be curious and the magic that can ensue from purposefully practicing curiosity.

Having operations at Welty come to a halt has provided a little time for me to be curious. I have slowed down to look at the world around me with an open eye. One such moment came when I gave a tour of Big Hill Park to a new summer staff member. I saw tent worm tents in a few cherry trees. I’ve seen them many times, but not thought about them very much. I decided to follow my curiosity and take a closer look. Wow! I was amazed at what I found. You can take a closer look with me here: Tent Worms.

(Above: A Ladybird larva [5-6 mm] and aphids [1.5-3.5 mm])

I must first engage my own curiosity and lead by example…

Then, this week I wanted to know more about what types of insects use milkweed plants. I started by looking at a reputable source: Wisconsin’s Master Gardener Program. There I found some of the common insects that I could expect to find when I went out to explore Big Hill Park’s milkweed plants. I found most everything except monarch caterpillars, so that video will have to wait a few weeks before posting. However, I discovered some that I had never seen before: ladybird larvae

…to show how fun it is to be curious and the magic of practicing curiosity.

I wanted to get a closer look at a group of aphids being farmed by ants on a milkweed plant, so I got out one of our digital microscopes. The aphids were awesome, but there was something else that I had never seen before. It looked like a caterpillar with white spikes. I searched and searched for something that looked like what I found. No luck. I asked Brenda who tried the word “worm”. Nothing! But it gave me the idea to try the word larvae. BINGO! That did it. The strange thing that I found was a ladybird larva (Scymnus sp.). I had no idea. Of course ladybirds have a life cycle and stages of development. I had simply never encountered it before. 

This! This is the joy that I hope to infuse into Welty’s environmental programming. I deeply want campers and those who attend our programming to follow their curiosity, ask questions, and learn how to seek their own answers. 

I hope that you will be able to join me, again, for programming in very near future.

Aaron WilsonAaron Wilson
Program Director, WEC