My turn

Family strolls are now all about collecting insects and leaves

2013-09-08T00:00:00Z Family strolls are now all about collecting insects and leavesBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
September 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

They say that golf is a perfectly nice walk interrupted by that confounded little ball. To that, I add a host of other disruptive activities, most of which I am not really very good at.

Over the weekend, we spent some quality time outdoors looking for those last few bugs that would complete "our" freshman biology project. One thing I found is that bugs are a whole lot smarter than humans.

First, they don’t spend a lot of time out in the sun. They tend to look for shade and, more importantly, they stay among the cooler plants.

Looking around, I saw a few of us pacing around in open fields. Not me, I was in among the trees. Lest you think that I was smarter, remember that a spider is technically not a bug, so that pretty much left me with only a couple of good finds. Leaves, on the other hand, are a little easier.

With leaves, you have to be ready to work above your head and to search out a wide variety of trees. This makes bigger parks a much better destination. I have fond memories of my grade school leaf project. My science grades were anemic. No, let me take that back, they were barely passable.

So, when Mr. Daniels at Ready Elementary School assigned a leaf collection, I saw an opportunity to get into the "C" and "B" range.

I searched high and low and found leaves that were varied and easily identifiable, easy since I had a good library book. I was tempted to hug Mr. Daniels when he gave me an "A" on the project and announced that it would count for one-third of the grade for that quarter.

So, when we discovered that this would be the year Sam would have a leaf collection and Matt would have a bug collection, I smiled for an instant and then reminded myself that bugs were never my strong suit, unless we are talking about killing them.

That perfectly nice stroll through the park or open field will now be taken up looking down for bugs and up for leaves. We have neighbors now searching high and low to complete our projects. It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes and someone else to get bitten by mosquitoes. By the way, we have one of those specimens, too. I was tempted to smack him even after my wife put him in the bag.

In a few weeks, the leaves will begin to change as shorter days and cooler weather prevails. I learned this week, or as some would say re-learned, that the leaves change color based on the chlorophyll decreasing in the leaf.

Don’t forget to tell the kids that these collections are an opportunity to find nature where she resides. We have to trek through her fields and forests to make a find. Unless you are lucky, she seldom ever makes it too easy, but if you look and pay attention, you might find some pretty cool stuff along the way.

In my quest last week, I found a half-dozen Daddy Long Leg spiders. It reminded me that I spent way too much time when I was a kid squashing them. 

Starting this week, butterflies will be coming out from their moth state, a sight to behold. That stroll is sounding better and better.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

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