Bug Craft: Window Wings

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Science and Art have always gone hand in hand. Da Vinci was a painter, mathematician, musician, scientist and inventor! Many universities have a College of Arts & Sciences. You need to be curious, flexible and dedicated for a career in either. Here at Bug Chicks HQ, we blend our love of both regularly! Jess draws awesome illustrations and creates props for teaching and I bring my theater skills to our videos and design bug costumes with moving parts. Obviously, we both use our entomology backgrounds every day.

In honor of Art & Science being BFFs, we’re going to start a little series of Bug Crafts!

Today we will show you how to use puffy paint/glass paint to make cool scientifically accurate inset-wing designs on windows! We have even provided you a FREE DOWNLOADABLE insect wing designs! We chose the sand wasp, Bembix americana antilleana. Download sand wasp right and sand wasp left.

Supplies you will need:

  • printed wing tracing sheet (right, left or both)
  • black puffy paint
  • scotch tape
  • colored glass paint or puffy paint
  • a clean glass surface

Step 1: Clean your windows



Dirty windows make for ugly bug wings. (Full disclosure: We only cleaned the windows we were working with. Those dawgs are BIG! Don’t judge. It’s The Bug Chicks way.)

Step 2: Decide on your pattern and tape it up

We used the left wings on the right side of the window and the left on the right side. Tape them up on the outside of the glass. Expert tip: We suggest doing this craft on a day when there is no precipitation. We made this craft in between two hail storms. It was stressful.



Step 3: Trace with puffy paint





Our windows are double paned, so we had to close one eye in order to trace the lines effectively. We’re not making this up. Expert tip: Go left to right and top to bottom. Otherwise it’s easy to smear the paint. Also, you might find it helpful to stabilize your hand. If you mess up, simply wipe off the paint and try again. We did A LOT of that.

Step 4: Paint with glass paint



We also used a set of wings on another window as an experiment in using colored paints, to make it look like stained glass! After the puffy paint dried overnight, we used three colors of glass paint to fill in the wing cells. We love it! Expert tip: Just paint over the black puffy paint. Then use a Q-tip to clean it up. It’s easier.

About the wings:

Insect wings are made of very thin layers of a hard protein called chitin. Chitin is the main substance found in exoskeleton, but in its purest form it is clear! The lines on insect wings that create the cells or ‘panels’ are actually veins. Hemolyph pumps through the veins to help provide structure and strength. In entomology class, you learn about a ‘generalized’ wing venation. it gets more complicated as you look at different orders, families, genera and species.

wing Comstock-Needham

Source: Wikipedia, Wing Comstock-Needham by Bugboy52.40


Different types of insects have different wing venations and subtleties between them help scientists to determine species. For example, dragonflies have very intricate and numerous small veins, where the wasps that we are using in today’s craft have far fewer veins that are much more thick. But if you look at the difference between the three wasp species we used, you can see that there is a small difference between them as well.


You should post your insect Window Wings on our Facebook Page and we’ll share them! Happy Crafting!

Beach Bugs (That’s an Arthropod???)


**This post is part of a PNW Blogger Scavenger Hunt! For more information on how to play and win prizes read the details here: http://www.metrofieldguide.com/2015-pnw-nature-blog-scavengerhunt


When we tell people that we make videos about insects, spiders and other arthropods people get really excited. Ladybugs! they say. Bees! they exclaim. Butterflies! they scream. Yes, Yes, Yes! we concur. And also…

We strive to teach people about the amazing diversity of the arthropod world and help people to see that the ‘bug’ world is much larger and more varied than they ever imagined. And whoa! we proclaim- Oregon has some REALLY COOL ARTHROPODS!

In September of 2013, we drove a green couch across the country to inspire kids to get off the couch and explore America’s wilderness. We filmed the whole trip (in post-production now). Our show starts on the Oregon Coast to explore some ancient (and very distant) relatives of the bugs we see everyday.



Our green couch, lounging at Bandon Beach, OR. The site of our first stop to explore America’s awesome arthropods. Beach bugs are the best! Photo: Peter C. Blanchard, 2013

Oregon’s coastline is gorgeous and with so many large rocks at the shoreline, it makes for great tide pooling. People know about crabs and small shrimp but when you walk across the sand there are thousands of these little animals that hop, skip and jump out of your way. People call them all sorts of names, like sandhoppers or sand fleas but they are actually little crustaceans called amphipods.


An amphipod found at Bandon Beach, OR.  Can you see the two pairs of antennae? Photo: The Bug Chicks, 2013

First things first. Crustaceans are arthropods that have 5-7 pairs of legs and 2 pairs of antennae. They are found all over the world, can live in fresh- or saltwater and on land. The little animal to the right is easy to identify as an amphipod because it is  laterally compressed, meaning it looks like someone picked it up and pinched it a bit between a thumb and a forefinger. That is the scientific definition of laterally compressed. Swear.

We found thousands of these amphipods just up from the surf on the wet sand. Many species  are detritivores, which means they eat decomposing matter. They are little scavengers (Hey! You’re scavengers!) looking for an opportunity. They hop and jump as you approach them so getting this picture was difficult. Amphipods are found all over the world in marine and freshwater alike. Some species are terrestrial but live in moist or damp areas.

Another arthropod that people overlook when at the beach is a barnacle. Huh? Barnacles are arthropods? Aren’t arthropods supposed to have segmented appendages (like legs & antennae), exoskeletons and bilateral symmetry? (See how I did that there? Taught you about the key characteristics of arthropods…)

Yup. Barnacles are arthropods. They are just a little different looking. After a free-living larval stage they attach themselves head-down using a cement gland at the base of their antennae. You can find these kinds of barnacles on rocks, boat hulls and even whales! Once attached they become sessile arthropods, or non-motile. (**Non-motile is a bit confusing because it means non-moving but barnacles can move their bodies, they just don’t change location.)  Their legs are modified into feeding appendages and they catch tiny plankton that drift by on the tides.


These are acorn, or volcano barnacles. These animals will remain attached to this rock for the rest of their lives. That’s one long head stand, folks. Photo: The Bug Chicks, 2013



A close-up view of an acorn barnacle. They create 6 hard plates that surround the body for protection. The central part (that looks like a clam shell) is called the operculum. They also called moveable plates. Plates are not molted, but barnacles do have internal exoskeleton that is molted just like other arthropods! Photo: The Bug Chicks, 2013

Some barnacles are parasitic. So instead of attaching themselves to rocks or structures, they attach themselves to living organisms like crabs. (There’s one that lives on the reproductive system in crabs, effectively sterilizing them and preventing them from mating!)

We hope you learned a bit about other-a-pods in this post. Next time you’re at the beach take a look at the hoppy, jumpy things and the look-like-part-of-the-rocks things and try to determine if they are arthropods!


A Cool Find in Oregon

After Thanksgiving I was in Eugene, Oregon visiting friends. We went on a forest ecology walk at the Arboretum on Mt. Pisgah.

You read that right. Thanksgiving weekend in Oregon.

It was cold. Windy. It even hailed a little. (Or was it freezing rain? I always get those confused. Little balls of ice. They hit me on my face.)

Now don’t get me wrong- forest ecology is cool. I just prefer it if my nature walks can promise some exoskeleton along with the lichen, you know?

So I’m bumbling along behind the group, trying to feel my toes and I see a black beetle on a fence post.

In the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of insects that are adapted to the colder months. We’ve even written about a few. But I’m still surprised when I find one.

Back to the beetle. As I look closer, I’m shocked. It looks like a lampyrid; known as lightning bugs or fireflies where I’m from. I think, “it can’t be! There are no fireflies out west!”


I had stumbled upon a diurnal firefly, genus Ellychnia, one of two species found in Oregon. They don’t glow as adults, and larvae live in rotting logs. It’s not known if the larvae of this genus exhibit bioluminescence, as some others do (as glowworms).

Ellychnia pronotum

Forgotten were my frozen fingers, the hail-sleet in my hair, my purple chapped lips. I Found An Insect!!!!! And it was one I’d never seen before. That’s a double score.

For a much better picture that wasn’t taken with an icy iPhone check out Alex Wild’s here.

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Kristie and Jessica

The Bug Chicks