Creature Survey: Count the Creatures Living in a One-Yard Grid

You might be surprised by how many creatures you can find living right at your feet. Follow these directions for conducting a simple creature survey in a one-yard grid.

What You Need

  • Counting Creatures chart
  • Insect field guide (optional)
  • Pencil or marker
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Yardstick

What You Do

  1. Download and Print the Chart
    Download and print the Counting Creatures chart.counting creatures chart
  2. Mark Off a One-Yard Square
    Cut four one-yard pieces of string. Locate a grassy area, flowerbed, or other place with vegetation outside, and use the string to mark off a one-yard square.
  3. Look for Creatures
    Find and count different types of insects, worms, or other creatures within the square yard. Be sure to look beneath the grass, on plant leaves, and under rocks.macro ant
  4. Dig Up Soil
    Consider using a garden trowel to dig up a bit of soil and look for worms. Some creatures you are likely to find include ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and earthworms.
  5. Fill Out the Chart
    Make a hash mark on your chart for every creature you find. Your child can draw pictures of the creatures, and you can help write in the creatures’ names. Use a field guide to help identify any unfamiliar insects.
  6. Get More Information
    The bug-counting technique in this activity is not unlike a method scientists use to gauge insect populations. They just study a larger sample area. By counting insect populations in a specific-size plot and multiplying the insect totals by the number of specific-size plots the habitat contains, scientists can estimate insect populations for an entire forest or meadow.If you need help identifying any of the insects you see in your survey, these websites can help:

    These field guides are also great resources:

    • Insects by Christina Wilsdon (a National Audubon Society First Field Guide)
    • Insects by Christopher Leahy (a Peterson First Guide)