How wild are we? Insights into our garden invertebrates.

© Gemma Paul

Team Wilder member, Gemma Paul and her son enjoyed looking for invertebrate minibeasts in their garden the other day. They're helping us answer the question, ''How wild are we?'' in our new citizen science campaign and you can, too!

This month, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust launched a citizen science campaign that asks, ''How wild are we?'' The Trust would love to know how wild your local spaces are, from the wildlife in your garden, balconies and pot plants to the wildlife you can see from your window. The data collected will help the Trust track its progress towards a wilder 2030.

Take part in our citizen science surveys

Citizen science is when members of the public work together to gather (or analyse) data that helps with scientific understanding or research. It's a great way to help with conservation by expanding knowledge and understanding of the wildlife in your local areas. You might be surprised to find even the most urban spaces are teeming with wildlife when you take the time to look closely.

This week, my son and I really enjoyed looking for minibeasts in our garden for Invertebrate Insights. We downloaded and printed out the handy spotter sheet to identify and record our finds with.

Boy doing invertebrate insight survey

© Gemma Paul

What is an invertebrate?

Invertebrates are animals that don't have a backbone. Some have a shell or a hard-outer casing to protect them, like insects, crabs, and snails; others have soft bodies like slugs and jellyfish. Most minibeasts are invertebrates and it is estimated that an amazing 97% of all the animal species on the planet are invertebrates!

There are roughly 270 different species of bee in the UK.
grey mining bee on dandelion flower

Grey mining bee © Gemma Paul

The first minibeasts we spotted were bees. We have a flowering rosemary bush in the garden that is buzzing and humming with life.

You will often find bees, beetles and butterflies in sunny spots around or on flowers. It's fascinating watching them feed on nectar from the flowers. Bees and butterflies use a proboscis (a tubular mouth piece, which is a bit like a straw) to suck nectar from flowers.

We spotted a beautiful Grey Mining Bee as well as a variety of bumble and honeybees. Did you know there are roughly 270 different species of bee in the UK? If you look carefully you can often see the differences between certain species. The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust have a brilliant visual guide to identifying bees here.

Snails are one of the slowest animals on earth.
Banded snail on leaf

Banded snail © Gemma Paul

The next minibeast we found was a snail. You can normally find slugs and snails hiding in shady spots, under leaves, in plant pots or at the bottom of walls. You can also spot them moving around the garden on rainy days. Did you know snails are one of the slowest animals on earth!

There are generally three types of snail you can look out for, Common Garden Snails, which have a mottled brown shell, Banded Snails, which have rings of bands on their shell. And finally, Glass Snails which have shiny and slightly transparent shells.

To find the more weird and wonderful minibeasts we next looked in dark and earthy places by turning over rocks, bricks, paving stones, and fallen branches to see what we could find.

A millipede is only born with 3 sets of legs, but they can grow between 100-200 more in their lifetime.
millipede

Millipede © Gemma Paul

Along the way we found this gorgeous little millipede. Millipedes like to curl up into spirals to defend themselves from predators. A millipede is only born with 3 sets of legs, but they can grow between 100-200 more in their lifetime. They are thought to have been one of the first invertebrates to walk on land, and fossilized millipede remains have been found from nearly 420 million years ago.

Woodlice and earth worm

Woodlice and earth worm © Gemma Paul

As well as millipedes we also found several woodlice and worms. Both of these wonderful and often overlooked invertebrates play a vital role in breaking down leaf, plant and animal matter which they compost and turn back into nutrients for the soil.

Over half of all spider species hunt their prey without a web.
Wolf spider

Wolf spider © Gemma Paul

Preying on the woodlice we found a Woodlice Spider (pictured above). (As the name suggests they mainly like to eat woodlice.) You might be surprised to know that over half of all spider species hunt their prey without a web.

Like the wolf spider we also found (pictured below), these spiders hunt and catch their prey by pouncing and grasping tightly.

Centipedes are also ferocious hunters: they like to prey on other invertebrates. We found several under rocks and logs. They are often very speedy and scurry off to hide as soon as they are spotted.

Woodlice Spider

Woodlice spider © Gemma Paul

It's made me realise we need to plant more butterfly friendly flowers and plants in the garden to provide them with more sources of food.

Whilst we were hunting for mini beasts, we also spotted several butterflies fluttering past the garden. Unfortunately, only one actually stopped in the garden to feed. A little brimstone butterfly that was attracted to the bluebells.

It's made me realise we need to plant more butterfly friendly flowers and plants in the garden to provide them with more sources of food. We've already found that leaving areas of long uncut grass growing in the garden has increased the variety and number of insects we find. It would be wonderful to increase the amount and variety of butterfly visitors in the same way.

Looper moth caterpillar

Looper moth caterpillar © Gemma Paul

We do however do quite well for moths as they seem to really like the herbs we grow on our garden. The marjoram is particularly popular with mint moths and we found a looper moth caterpillar hiding in the rosemary.

The only 3 invertebrates we couldn't find during our survey were earwigs, beetles and grasshoppers. Earwigs are always quite elusive and it's a bit too early to find grasshoppers where we live.

But I was disappointed we didn’t find any beetles as we often spot ladybirds, and flower or alder beetles in the garden. We did however find a green shield bug but unfortunately, they aren't considered beetles.

shield bug on finger tip

Shield bug © Gemma Paul

We also spotted a beautiful glass-winged bug and a little grass bug in the same place.

Glasswing bug

Glasswing bug © Gemma Paul

Once we completed our survey we submitted our results online.

We've really enjoyed taking part and my son is keen to have a go at some of the other activities, as we would both love to see what other wildlife we can discover just outside our door.

Special thanks to our local Natural History Society for kindly taking the time to help us identify some of the species.

Kind regards,

Gemma

 

Read more of Gemma's blogs and her ideas for exploring nature with children at https://childsplayabc.wordpress.com/.

Blashford Wild Days Out Bioblitz Bush cricket

Blashford Wild Days Out Bioblitz Bush cricket © T Standish

Become a citizen scientist

Did you learn something new today? Use this information to identify species at home and help us learn how wild we are.

We need your help to create a baseline of the wildlife we have now so we can track our progress towards a Wilder 2030. Tell us what wildlife you can see from your windows, what visits your balcony and what’s living in your garden. 

How Wild Are We?