What’s in the Dirt?

This week our Bill Hill Adventure Campers dug through three samples of soil from around Bill Hill Center. First they were tasked to look for critters. In the two samples taken from the prairie trail behind the center they found red wiggler worms, ground beetles, sow bugs, small spiders, and even firefly larvae.

Soil with Campers

The third was taken from a mowed grassy area, however, it did not have as much life in the soil. The group did find a harvestmen, harvesters or daddy longlegs, which is related to spider and mites, but is its own animal: Opiliones.

The campers then discussed the texture of the soil. After diluting the soil with water, they discovered that much of all three samples were composed of fine granular of silica, sand. The presence of the sand prompted a brief conversation about Wisconsin’s glacier history, but the real opportunity in this activity was discussing why there might be more life in long-grass soil then in mowed-grass soil. The campers hit on many of the possible reasons:

mowed-grass soil

  • Soil was too wet – not enough plant life to “drink up” all the rain
  • Not enough food for critters
  • Too many chemicals

long-grass soil

  • Drier – plants “drank” the rain
  • More food for critters
  • No or less chemicals

Their conclusion was that if you are searching for critters, you will likely find more in the soil of long-grasses. However, everyone was disappointed that not one of the samples had an ant colony (well, maybe not everyone).