Five Family Activities to Learn More about Science with the Hive Explorer

It’s International Day of Families and this year's theme is Families and New Technologies. It seems like the perfect time to introduce you to a technology that entertains you and your family, while teaching you about sustainability. 

From the comfort of your home and with little space and equipment required, you can now discover the world of nature’s smallest creatures: insects!

The Hive Explorer is a compact and neat insect farm to get closer to the world of critters while learning about their life cycles and their contribution to the environment - especially their role in helping us with food waste. 

Scared of insects? Not to worry, this farm is designed for a soft introduction to the world of bugs, keeping you at a safe distance and hosting some of the most docile and chilled little critters. 

If you are looking to bring concepts of sustainability to your family activities and if you are keen on trying out-of-the-box experiences, read on! 

Here are our favorite 5 activities to do with your family around the Hive Explorer.

1. Ready, Steady,... go, beetle, go!

© Photo credits: Aljun Lam (Livin Farms HK Intern 2021)

We’ve hinted at it before: insects help us with the problem of food waste. How? You may ask… they eat our leftovers! They love them! Orange peels, potato skin, leftover salad leaves, oats, and more! (read here to know all about what mealworms can eat)

And we find that the little beetles in the Hive Explorer love to race for a rewarding meal! 

Take out the beetle racetrack that comes with your Hive Explorer, and open up your Hive Explorer magazine at page 27.

How to set it up?

  1. Pick your racers, the track allows for four beetles, so you can try with 3 other friends or family members too!
  2. Place some food leftovers at the end of the track to help your beetle visualise the destination (and for motivation ;-) )
  3. Carefully place your beetles onto the starting mark at the same time
  4. ..3.. 2...1..GO!
  5. Watch to see which beetle makes it across to the finish line. Winner gets a special treat of course.

Our intern Aljun says this was her favorite part of having the Hive Explorer home. “Often, the beetles would run around in circles and never even make it to the finish line, it was really funny”. Maybe you’ll find the one food leftover that will keep them focused? 

2. Having a debate? Let the wise mealworms settle it for you.

© Livin farms Instagram Story

Having a debate in the family as to whether bananas are better than apples? Coffee better than tea? Or is it savoury vs. sweet?

You could toss the coin, or play a round of rock-paper-scissors, but isn’t it more fun, to ask the wise mealworms?

That’s right, your insect colony young adults, the mealworms, are opinionated and they could be just the right ones to ask to settle a debate. 

Mealworms can be extremely picky when it comes to the food they eat, so one of the fun things we like to do is figure out your colony's favourite food! 

How you can do this is by doing a competition - Sovina, our colleague, held a small competition with her Hive Explorer to see if her mealies like tea or coffee more. You can record a time-lapse and see which ones they go towards and finish first. 

For a more long-term solution, you can keep a Food Diary and give them different food everyday - and a very telltale sign is if they eat it all or not. Some food will be completely gone, but some will still have big chunks remaining - so you can treat them. 

Video credits: Kevin Chau (Livin Farms HK Intern 2020)

3. “Dear beetle diary, today my human came visit with his family”

Photo credits: Jasmin Primus (@mightybadger)

Having an insect farm at home is like having a small growing kit, or even an aquarium. It gets the family involved, sharing responsibilities around the wellbeing of these little animals. But each family member may have one favourite they want to check on more often than others. 

Telling beetles apart can be pretty challenging: they are all tiny, all black, all have six legs…

Our friend Jasmine went the extra mile to be able to check on the wellbeing of her favourite little bugs. A tiny tiny drop of colored nailpolish on the back of the beetle allows her to tell them apart and to keep a diary of their growth! You can see what they like to eat, how big they get, and which part of the hive they like to hang out in. 

It’s a fantastic way to introduce kids to the very basics of scientific inquiry and observations while also teaching them basic responsibility. A pretty good way to prepare for having a (bigger) pet!

Get even more creative, keep a diary and write in it as if it was the beetle talking: “Crazy traffic today!” or “I think I have a crush on the pretty bug with the pink dot”. What is the world from the beetles’ perspective like?

4. Playing with... Poop!

Photo credits: Jasmine Primus, Ka Fei Lam, and Sovina Taneja 

These words are probably every mom’s nightmare: their kids handling poop. But insects’ poop is quite different. 

It’s a dry powder, with just a slight smell, that has some proper superpowers.

One of the sustainable benefits you get from The Hive Explorer is that the mealworm’s poop is a strong fertilizer. After digesting our food waste, these critters create a natural fertiliser rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. 

So now you can close the loop of waste, and use this poop, called frass, to fertilize your plants! 

We’ve made a step-by-step guide on how to make your own frass tea and grow your own microgreens. 

If you do choose to grow your own plants using the frass from the Hive Explorer - trying making it fun by creating an experiment. Grow two plants - one with the poop tea, and one without. At the end of the week/month, measure them to see which plant has grown faster and/or taller. 

💡 Protip: Always measure the initial height to calculate the rate of growth.

*Disclaimer: mealworm poop is generally deemed safe, however you want to avoid rubbing it on your skin, near your face or ingesting it as it may cause allergies similar to that of crustaceans due to the chitin content.

5. Hive Explorer Magazine 

Photo credit: Livin Farms YouTube

And if all of the above is too time consuming, don’t forget that the Hive Explorer comes with a fun do-it-yourself magazine. 

The first few pages introduce you to the mealie home, letting you familiarise yourself with the species, its living conditions and the technology in the Hive Explorer. Once all the technical stuff is out of the way, start testing your knowledge as you start to fill-out each of the activities.

Livin Farms’ favorite picks:

  1. Page 20-21: Follow the steps to calculate how much food waste you are able to recycle by feeding it to the mealies. Next, compare how much you’re able to save in a year, it's absolutely mind blowing to see how much food waste these little guys can eat up. This STEM lesson ticks both the science & mathematics box - ding ding ding.
  2. Page 32-34: Do you know what a circular system is? Not to worry, you can learn all about the circular systems through our Hive Explorer. Using the different elements in the Hive (yes, including our little friends), you can see how our mealies help close the loop. For a bonus addition to your room or classroom, check out the Hive Explorer Closing The Loop Poster on our webshop.
  3. Page 35-38: If you've done the due diligence, learnt all the facts and can now call yourself an expert - why not take our quiz and see how much you really know! This quiz will test your knowledge about the mealworms, beetles and their habit. 

The Hive Explorer is the perfect tool for you and your family to spend some quality time together - while learning how to make this world a better place. So, this International Day of Families, have some fun with your family and your little insect friends!