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Minibeast Adventures

Jess French is a CBeebies presenter, a children's author and is also in her final year of a veterinary degree! Read her fantastic blog about minibeast adventures and the problems these little creatures face in winter.
 
 

Winter can often be a difficult time for a minibeast-hunter, it’s cold outside, there are no plants to eat, and many invertebrates are hibernating.  The summer’s babies are still hiding in their eggs, queen bees are curled up out of the cold and ladybird colonies huddle together for warmth. 


Even if we could find minibeasts overwintering in compost heaps, under bark or in cosy sheds and garages, we would never dream of disturbing them!  But this year has been a little different.  The winter was so mild and the flowers have started to come out so early, that the poor minibeasts don’t know whether they are coming or going!  Some caterpillars, like the marsh fritillary, are already out in force, feeding and basking.  Some butterflies are already flying!

 

The resilience of our wild creatures never ceases to amaze me.  I am particularly enthralled by minibeasts that undergo complete metamorphosis.  This means they start life in one form, and then completely re-arrange all of their body parts to end up looking like a different animal entirely!  This ability to completely change their bodies allows these types of minibeasts to extend or reduce the amount of time they spend in each life phase, to suit seasonal changes and trends.  


Minibeasts are amazingly in tune with their surroundings and very flexible in their life cycles. No doubt it is these traits that have helped them to survive on earth for over 200 million years!  Though they may be small and easily overlooked, it is this kind of natural history that makes minibeasts so fascinating.

 

We have plenty of minibeasts that metamorphose in the UK.  The most obvious are the fluttering winged creatures, like butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies.  Dragonflies and damselflies change so drastically that they spend half of their lives swimming and breathing underwater and the other half zooming through the skies on amazing, multi-directional wings. 


Bees, wasps, flies and beetles all go through similar changes.  But even those minibeasts that don’t completely change undergo some pretty fantastic growth.  As centipedes grow, they don’t only become longer, but they also grow more pairs of legs!  Each pair is slightly longer than the last, so they don’t trip up.

 

It will soon be time to see all of these life cycles playing out once again in the wild.  There is nothing more magical than watching the gradual change from egg to butterfly.  But despite the mild winter, we are not quite there yet.  As the grubs wriggle slowly to the surface and the millipedes warm their hundreds of frosty toes, for now we must wait.   And perhaps, in that time, we could plan our next adventure.

 

Fluttering Minibeast Adventures with Jess French and Tickly Minibeast Adventures with Jess French are out now!


Competition time!


To be in with the chance of winning signed copies of Jess's new books, take a look at our exciting competition! We want you all to go on a minibeast hunt! What will you find?