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Abyss, the darkling beetle

One of the cool things about homeschooling is that you can incorporate your life into your learning… and your learning into your life. This is a case of the first instance. My nine-year-old daughter insisted on picking up a large black beetle when we were hiking at Pogonip and bringing it back with us. She has always enjoyed keeping bugs captive and studying their behavior. This one, however, has worked out more longterm – she’s survived 5 weeks. We’ve all come to have quite an affection for the little creature, who eats oats, does tricks like walking a tightrope (though not on command), and seems to enjoy crawling all over my daughter’s arm.

Following is the “assignment” my daughter completed based on Abyss and research she did. Note that I didn’t have to “assign” this at all – I made a suggestion that she could do something with the research she’d done on Abyss, and this is what she came up with. It was the perfect homeschooling moment.

The Life of Abyss, the Darkling Beetle



Hello, my name is Abyss. I am a female darkling beetle. I was born in a grassy, rocky area of California called Pogonip. That was the place that I lived for a very long time, and there my story begins.

I am currently a larva, or wireworm. I hatched from an egg a day or two ago that my mother laid. It took me about 18 days to hatch. It was uncomfortable in the egg—I was all curled up.

I wriggle and squiggle underground where I have burrowed. I know that my time soon will come where I will turn into a pupa, which is my resting stage. I wait a few more weeks underground, and soon I start to transform. It happened suddenly to me one day when I woke up. It was kind of scary and I couldn’t move anymore. I had a hard shell-like thing where my head should be and it was very uncomfortable.

The life cycle of a darkling beetle


I wait like this for a few weeks. One day I feel that I might able to move again. I try. I come out of the awful shell I was in, except I’m not a larva! I’m a darkling beetle. I walk up above ground, and stare at the sun. It seems like a long time ago that I stared at the sun when I first hatched. I’m currently white, and I have wings except when I try to flap them, they’re all fused together. I can’t open them. I try every day of my life to open these wings, but they’ll never open. I guess they’ll just stay fused together.

Some of my friends and some of my brothers and sisters are also out there. They are also white and their wings are also fused together. We play for a while, then we grow bored.

In a couple of days’ time I have turned brown. I start having to forage for my own wild grains, grass, and other things like that. A couple days later I am completely black with a hard shell covering my back. I am about 2 centimeters long.

Hikers at Pogonip pass me and one nearly squashes me. I crawl out of the way just in time. One day, one particular large group of hikers appears. One of them notices me. It picks me up. I am brought back along the trail to a place I have never been before. There are lots of big gigantic metallic looking things, and some of them pull away and move. The person that found me walks over to one of these. So do some of the hikers it is with.

The thing starts moving. After a while it stops. It waits a few minutes. It starts again. After that it stops again except it doesn’t move. The door next to me opens. The person that found me walks out. It takes me into a strange, gigantic room and puts me in a jar. There is nothing to do in the jar. I try to escape but the walls are smooth and they are also clear.

Soon the person that found me returns with some forest bedding. It gives it to me. I find a particularly crunchy piece of forest matter and start working on it. In a few minutes, I am taken out of my jar and put in a new gigantic jar. This one has things to do in it. It’s a whole playground. It’s also got forest matter. I crunch on the forest matter.

A couple of days later I get back into one of those strange metallic things. I go to another strange place. [Editor’s note: She went to be shared at our homeschool program.] I have been there for a couple of hours when the top opens. Someone sticks their finger into it. On their finger is a grain. It looks like some of the wild grains that I used to eat when I was at Pogonip. I eat half of it before it is taken back out. I had already finished eating as much as my little teeny tiny tummy could hold, so I wasn’t very mad. Soon I get back into the first strange room. I had taken one of those metallic things again.

Soon I’ve been fed more of that strange, yummy grain. I eat most of it. About a week passed. I was taken out of my playground and put in a container again. Another different container, I’ve never seen this one before.

I try to get out like I did the first time I was put in that jar. It takes about a minute. Then I’m taken out and put back into my nice, cozy playground. They’ve taken out the forest matter. Maybe they’ve realized I’m not a foresty bug. I’ll eat the forest matter but that’s just because I had nothing else to eat. Now, it’s only got oats. They look like the wild oats I used to eat.

I go and play on the seesaw. I go and hang out there a few minutes.

That is the end of my story. That’s where I am right now.


Parents know nothing: When my daughter wanted to buy this "bug playground," I figured it would sit in her closet. She loves it, and so does Abyss.

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting.

2 Responses

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  1. Brandi Riopel says

    This is awesome!! What a wonderful, creative writer this little girl is…she has the promise of becoming a professional author one day.
    I’m 36 years old, and I truly enjoyed this little glimpse into the beetle’s life and possible thoughts. My 11 year old daughter raises darkling beetles from mealworms we had orginally bought for our lizard to eat…our lizard was less than impressed, and my daughter became very attached to the rejected mealworms. They soon pupated, and they emerged as very small beetles, because they hadn’t been cared for and fed properly in the pet store they didn’t grow into fat healthy larva. But as we bought her more mealworms and she has given them proper care before allowing them to pupate, the larva grew huge, fat and healthy. By the time they pupated, they may have been the fattest little mealworms in existence. When they emerged from the pupal stage, the beetles that emerged were honestly quite beautiful and HUGE compared to the others. The very first of the large beetles has remained a reddish color, and has been named “Big Red”. She has another pupating now, and is hoping to begin breeding them soon. (I have truly grown to enjoy and appreciate them, I have to say.)
    Really a wonderful peice of writing..and I have to ask, wherever were they able to buy a “bug playground?” My daughter has created a rather cool little habitat for them, using cardboard coffee trays from Tim Hortons to make little towers and hideouts. They’ve chewed neat little holes all over cardbaord structures, and truly seem to enjoy playing in it.

    • Suki says

      We bought our bug playground some time ago and I don’t see it for sale now, but it’s similar to this one: . Actually, my daughter would be so thrilled with that twisty slide! But her bug playground has a seesaw, which Abyss actually plays on, and a tightrope, which Abyss crosses quite handily. Since she wrote that piece, she got another darkling beetle and we put them into a terrarium with the bug playground in it. We have found that the love the cut ends of zucchini! And also, we found out that Abyss is a boy! She was holding both beetles one day (they seem to enjoy crawling around on her) and Abyss mounted the other one and inseminated her. This was so thrilling for my daughter. So Abyss is a boy, and his mate is Hera. They appeared to make an egg container out of rolled up dirt, but that was a couple of months ago and it hasn’t changed, so I’m guessing it didn’t work out. Not sure why. Or maybe their eggs take a long time to hatch or only hatch in the heat (in which case they are out of luck, because we live in a forest). But it’s really fun to watch them.

      It sounds like your daughter’s beetle project is really cool, too. There is some great curriculum based on raising mealworms that we are always meaning to get around to but haven’t. It sounds like your daughter’s is a perfect science experiment. So cool that she was able to raise healthier beetles.

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