Mad about minibeasts

 

Bark_beetles1

Minibeasts are everywhere, and there are millions of them! These little invertebrates can be found in every environment on the planet.

Woodlands are great places to look for minibeasts as they are home to a large number of specialist species. This is because a wood contains a diverse range of habitats including dead wood, open areas such as grassy glades, the tree canopy and understorey layers where the smaller woodland plants can be found, as well as leaf litter and rich soils.

If you fancy going on a hunt for some minibeasts yourself, here are a few things you could look for in different kinds of habitats.

Dorcus parallelipipedus

Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus)

Lesser Stag Beetles, like their larger relatives the Greater Stag Beetles, are dependent on decaying wood. The larvae can take two or more years to develop in the old wood and the adult lives for about two years. They are mainly active at night but can sometimes be seen by day or tempted out in the early evening by a sweet treat such as maple syrup.

Beautiful butterflies such as the Speckled Wood, Brimstone and Hairstreaks can be found flitting around in woodland glades, visiting flowers and looking for mates.

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood Butterfly (Pararge aegeria)

Bumblebees are also frequent visitors. There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK but there are only about eight that are commonly seen. When a bumblebee has visited a flower it leaves a chemical message to tell the other bumblebees that it has been there and not to bother investigating as the nectar has already been plundered.

There’s plenty more to discover too, from pseudoscorpions to the importance of aphids in the food chain of many ecosystems…

If you’d like to learn more then come along to Wytham Woods in Oxford at 10am on 22 July or 26 August and help us see what we can find in a 90-minute guided walk around the woods. The event is free, family friendly (ideal for children 7+) and an expert will be on hand to help with minibeast identification too. For more information and to book email ceri.watkins@oum.ox.ac.uk.

Ceri Watkins – TCV Natural Talent Trainee

 

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