If you have ordered our wooden Discovery Ramps in the last couple of years, chances are you have a set constructed using Wormy Maple. Look closely and you may see small holes and dark lines. Have your children noticed them? Have you or they wondered where the holes came from? Children often speculate that people made the holes while the ramps were built. Actually, the creature that made these holes is a beetle, the Ambrosia beetle.The marks are made as the beetle walks because it emits a fungus from its feet that affects the wood. The holes are made as the beetle bores through the wood.
With your children, draw attention to the unique coloring and wood grain of the ramps. If you don’t own our Discovery Ramps, you can use a photo from the internet (or buy a set on the Kodo online store!). While observing the wood, pose the following open-ended questions:
- What do you notice about the wood our ramps are made from?
- How do you think these holes and markings were made?
After some discussion, reveal the story about the Ambrosia beetle. Then continue investigating with more open-ended questions:
- What other animals and insects like to eat wood?
- Do they eat all types of wood?
- What else can change how wood looks?
You can even take your investigation to the internet. Use the children’s answers to research more types of wood affected by animals and insects, such as Beetle Kill Pine – a material we have a lot of here in Colorado! Then, take your investigation back into your present space by looking around your environment. For example, some furniture is made of wood – look closely and you might find evidence of an insect or animal that has enjoyed having part of a table for a meal.
Continue your exploration throughout the day and beyond. Pay attention while on your hikes and nature walks; look to your local forest for inspiration. Insect investigations can go so far beyond the ant farm!