Our guide to...Bug Quests
Scientifically, 'bugs' only refers to particular insects - things like shield bugs and aphids. But if you go on a bug quest, you'll find a huge diversity of invertebrates! Even a small garden is home to minibeasts like caterpillars, ladybirds, worms, woodlice, millipedes, and spiders.
Creepy crawlies may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they are the cornerstone of our agriculture, allowing us to grow food like nuts, fruit and grains by pollinating our crops and keeping soils healthy. They're also really important as a food source for birds and small mammals. Worryingly, they're declining all over the UK, and they need your help. Recording them is a great way to make a difference.
Activities to Try:
You can find invertebrates anywhere! Here are some ideas to get you started.
This is a great activity for finding invertebrates which live in trees and bushes, including caterpillars, shieldbugs and ladybirds. Place a large, pale-coloured sheet (like an old pillowcase, a piece of paper or even an upturned umbrella) under a bush or tree branch. Gently shake the branch for a few seconds - you don't need to do it for any longer, as any inhabitants of the tree or bush will hang on tight after the initial shake, and you won't dislodge them. Carefully, scoop up any minibeasts which fell onto your sheet into a bug pot for a closer look - a soft paintbrush is a good tool for this. Remember to release your critters back where you found them.
Looking under Logs
If you turn over a log, flower pot or stone, you're likely to find quite different creatures: worms, woodlice, spiders beetles and millipedes all like dark places to hide away. These often move pretty quickly, so take extra care when scooping them into your bug pot. Remember to release any invertebrates back where you found them and gently replace the object you upturned.
Getting in the Grass
If you search for invertebrates in a grassy field, you're likely to find ladybirds, caterpillars, harvestmen or beetles. The trick is to think like a bug! Get down on their level and have a peer through the grass. Often, you can find minibeasts sheltering on stems and leaves, or feeding on flowers. Again, you can scoop these up into your bug pot, but remember to pop them back where they came from when you've finished looking.
Equipment to Borrow:
- Bug pots: these are a great way of safely looking at any minibeasts up close.
- Hand lenses: these are fancy magnifying glasses - great for more detailed views.
Click here to find out more!
- The RSPB's Tree Minibeasts and Ground Minibeasts sheets will help you get familiar with the different kinds of invertebrates.
- For Insects: you can borrow our FSC Guide to Insects of the British Isles.
- For Caterpillars: Discover Life's Caterpillar Key helps you identify caterpillars using colour, pattern and features like hairs and spines.
- For Ladybirds: Check out Coleoptera's pictorial guide to common ladybird species and ladybird larvae. The Woodland Trust's guide includes more information about habitat and distribution.
- Buglife's Key to Terrestrial Invertebrates is a good introduction to more detailed categorisation of invertebrates.
Top Tips for Bug Quests:
- Don't be overwhelmed by the number of invertebrates you might find! Caterpillars and ladybirds are good places to start with identification (you can use the resources above).
- You can always take a picture and send it to us - we'd love to know what you've found, and in lots of cases we'll be able to help you work out what it is.
- Be very gentle when handling invertebrates, and encourage kids to be gentle too. You are HUGE compared to them, and could easily hurt them if you're not careful.
We'd love to hear from you...
Get in touch with your findings and let us know what you've seen!
07595 655 174
RSPB Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve
Largs Road, Lochwinnoch,
Renfrewshire, PA12 4JF