A Pet of Your Own
by Kim Schuelke
Do you want a pet? Maybe your family doesn’t. Mom says hamsters are stinky and Dad says fish tanks are a pain. Do cats make your sister sick and dogs scare your brother? Horses need big yards and tigers get too cranky. What can you do?
Get a pet from your backyard! It’s full of tiny animals called beetles. Mom might be a little squeamish about beetles. They may have munched her plants. Not all beetles are bad, though. Some are good, like ladybugs. They’re easy to find. You can care for them without help, and they won’t cost anything to feed. Dad will like that.
Clean a plastic jar and lid, and get an old spray bottle. Have an adult to help you poke small holes in the lid. Rinse the bottle and sprayer well. Take your jar and lid outside.
Pick a place to watch for a beetle. They’re just about everywhere. Some relax under rocks or in dirt. Others like bushes, flowers, or trees. A few stay in the water. Leave the water beetles alone. (They take more work.)
Beetles are easy to spot. Their bodies have three parts. They have a head with antennae to help them smell. Next is a thorax with six legs. See the line on the thorax? That’s where your beetle’s wings meet. He uses them to get into bushes and trees. The abdomen (bottom) is next.
Catching your beetle is simple. Open your jar and hold it sideways, on one side of the beetle. Hold the lid on the other side and quickly bring the cover to the jar. Try not to pinch the beetle. (You’ll squish him.) Let him crawl into the jar and wait until he reaches the bottom.
Slowly pull the jar up, holding the lid against the jar. Some leaves or flowers should break off. If they don’t, break them off with your hands. Now he has some food. Watch your beetle for awhile. You’ll see him munch his leaves. Give him fresh food every day by putting new leaves in the jar. Let your beetle crawl onto them and then pull out the old leaves.
Your beetle will need a housecleaning every three days. Get another jar with a lid and wait until he gets on a leaf. Slip the leaf into the new jar and put on the lid. Clean his home with warm water but don’t ever use soap. (Beetles don’t like chemicals.) Now his home is cozy again. You can move him back into it.
Spray water in once each day. Only use a little bit so that it doesn’t collect on the bottom. (Your pet could drown.) Put a twig in the jar, and your beetle will climb it. Now he has what all animals need: air, food, water, and exercise.
You did it! Congratulations! Your pet may be small, but he’s yours.