Get set for a bug safari!
Find out what makes minibeasts different and how to spot them.
Minibeasts really are marvellous! Not only are they are fascinating creatures, they are an essential part of the food chain. Without minibeasts there would be nothing to eat for a multitude of birds, bats, fish, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals like hedgehogs that rely on them for dinner. And did you know? A third of all our food crops need insects to pollinate them!
Video: Education Officer Katie explains what makes minibeasts unique and how you can take a closer look by going on your very own bug hunt.
Minibeast safari kit
For your own bug hunt, you will need a small pot, which could be as simple as an old yoghurt pot, for holding any minibeasts you find. If you spot any, use an old paintbrush to gently sweep them into your pot. You may also want a larger tray where you can keep them for a short time. A magnifying glass is handy but you can see lots by simply taking a closer look. Always carefully set them free at the end.
Top tips for good bug hunting!
Many insects like to live in dark, damp spots so take a look under large stones and logs and in bark and dead wood for millipedes, beetles, woodlouse and spiders. After it’s been raining keep a look-out for slugs, snails and worms. And don’t forget to look up! Lots of insects live in leaves, where you might find caterpillars and ladybirds. Try putting a white piece of card or an old sheet under a tree or bush and gently shake its branches to see what falls out! Use a book or our Invertebrates Explorer Guide to help you identify what you’ve found.
Try a tumble trap!
Another way to catch minibeasts is to set up a tumble trap which can be left overnight to see what falls in. It’s a good way to get up close to ground-dwellers such as beetles, woodlice, millipedes, centipedes, earwigs and spiders that hunt on the ground. You may also find worms, slugs and snails.
- Using a trowel, dig a hole big enough to sit a yoghurt pot inside it, so that the rim at the top is level with the surface of the ground.
- Add some leaves to provide a hiding place for any captives so they have shelter and can avoid being spotted and eaten by predators such as large spiders.
- Choose a flat spot near varied vegetation or an interesting habitat such as an old log pile.
- If it is going to rain, add a ‘roof’ by placing a stone or a log over the top, supported by small stones or sticks so there are gaps for minibeasts to crawl through.
- As long as the top of your pot is totally flush with the ground, any insects wandering nearby may fall in and some won’t be able to climb, jump or fly out.
- Many insects are active at night so leave it until the next morning and then see what you’ve caught. If you decide to leave your pot out during the day, check it regularly.
- Tip the contents into a bigger tray so you can take a closer look at what you have caught. Use a book to identify your creepy crawlies or our online Invertebrates Explorer Guide.
- You may want to make a note of what you caught, the date and location, and draw them or take photos for your very own natural history log book.
- Carefully set your creatures free in a sheltered and safe spot.
Play a game
This is a fun activity especially with a group of children. Ask them to create a little house they think would be perfect for a minibeast to live in, using whatever they can find from the natural environment around them. Piles of sticks and leaves are perfect but let the children use their imaginations – then at the end the children can tour each other’s creations and take it in turns to explain what makes their mini-home a special hideaway for a minibeast!
Build a Bug Hotel
If you have more time then you could go for a grand design and build a bug hotel where minibeasts can check in: download the activity sheet and create a multistorey mansion with boutique ‘rooms’ for lots of little guests!