Insects are a critical part of our world and necessary for life as we know it to exist. The amazingly diverse groups of creatures we generally refer to as bugs include bees, ants, dragonflies, spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, moths and much more. Bugs decompose animal waste, pollinate plants, control agricultural pests and perform millions of other important tasks that make our environment and ecosystems work.
In this fun and easy tutorial, we are going to create an easy excavation we call the DIY Bug Discovery Dig. We are going to load this excavation with all kinds of bugs for your excavating adventurer to discover. 
Fun facts: There are believed to be between six million and ten million different insect species. 
  • Sand
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups
  • Excavation tools. Wooden dowels and other blunt instruments work well. Sharp tools are unsafe and not necessary as the excavations are reasonably brittle and excavate easily. 
  • Safety goggles
  • Small brush
  • Little plastic bugs. There are seemingly endless options available for purchase online at a very inexpensive price. There are really nice assortments of bugs filled with all kinds of different insects that work great for the DIY Bug Discovery Dig.
  • Container - Any plastic container will do. I saw some cute dragonfly and butterfly soap molds online that would make really cute little bug shaped excavations. 

Pro tip: Get some glow in the dark insects and make a nighttime Bug Discovery Dig. You can even sprinkle some glow in the dark powder across the surface of the excavation just before it dries. Place the Bug Discovery Dig in a darkened space, provide your excavating adventure a headlamp, and let them dig in and start discovering. 


Fun Fact: Many insects really do glow. Fireflies produce a chemical reaction inside their bodies that allows them to light up. This type of light production is called bioluminescence.


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  1. Put one cup of sand in your mixing bowl.
  2. Add one-third cup Plaster of Paris.
  3. Use the wooden spoon to mix the sand and Plaster of Paris.
  4. Add one-third cup of water and mix.
  5. Keep adding small amounts of water until you reach a pancake like batter consistency. 
  6. Add the bugs and insects to the container. 
  7. Pour a layer of the mixture into the container to cover the bugs.
  8. Gently tap the sides of the container to remove any air bubbles. This will also allow a little mixture under and around the bugs. The plastic creatures may try and float to the surface. You can push them back under as the mixture stiffens.  
  9. Optional - Leave a few insects partially exposed on the surface of the excavation. 
  10. Set the DIY Bug Discovery Dig in a safe location to dry undisturbed overnight. I like to put the excavation in front of a fan.
  11. Optional - Gather some bark, leaves, rocks, sticks and other natural materials to decorate the surface of the excavation. 

Pro tip: Take a little time online and put together an identification sheet for the bugs you include in your excavation. Once your excavating adventurer discovers all the bugs, encourage them to use the sheet to identify and learn a little information about the bugs. 

Now the DIY Bug Discovery Dig is ready to be enjoyed. Find an area that is easy to clean up, distribute the safety goggles, excavation tools, and let the excavating begin. 

Pro tip: For younger excavating adventurers, grow a batch of water beads (Orbeez). You can use clear of colored water beads. Once the water beads are ready, strain off any excess water, pour them into a bin or tray, hide the little plastic bugs and insects, and let your child dig in and start discovering the little treasures. This is a great sensory activity and a ton of fun. Once all the bugs have been discovered, you can encourage your little one to sort the discoveries by shape, type, or color to encourage thinking skills and problem solving abilities. 

I hope you enjoyed this super quick tutorial and enjoy making the DIY Bug Discovery Dig. These excavations are very easy to make, inexpensive, and a lot of fun!
Pro tip: Use this activity to create some excitement around discussions or lessons regarding bugs, bees, insects, spiders, ecosystems, and more.
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Happy Excavating!