Minibeasts

Credits: Cardinal beetle - David Longshaw

Are you afraid of spiders or terrified of centipedes? Do you hate scurrying woodlice and alien-looking earwigs? If so, then life in the undergrowth is not for you. But you’re missing a whole heap of funky creatures…

Pick up any rock or branch and you’ll find a host of insects going about their daily business. Our invertebrate (that means no back-bone) friends are constantly waging war and building cities - right beneath our feet!

Creepy-crawlies like insects, spiders and worms help us to survive by pollinating flowers and recycling waste and leaf litter. They also make tasty snacks for other animals higher up the food chain! Without bees our fruit trees would not grow delicious apples. And without spiders we’d be over-run with flies! So you see, they might be small but they’re mightily important.

In the UK, there are now more than 39,000 species but lots are under threat, like the stag beetle. These are our largest insects and the males are easily spotted by their huge jaws shaped like antlers. They use these to fight off rival males and to win the ladies over.

A real autumn delight is finding cobwebs in the early morning, perfectly preserved and covered in dew. This is when you can really make out the detailed spiral design made by the orb-web spider – amazingly they make a new web every day! When an unsuspecting fly hits the web, the waiting spider wraps it tightly up in silky threads and bites it, injecting it with deadly venom. But they’re not harmful to us!

 

Did you know?

Minibeasts have been around for about 550 million years – that’s well before the dinosaurs.