10 minibeasts to spot in your garden

Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) © Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

This week, we're looking at everything that creeps and buzzes through your garden. If you don't have a garden, take a walk and look if you can spot these on your walk. Make sure to take a good look, some of these are really small.
Earwig

Earwig © Chris Lawrence

Earwigs

Earwigs might not always be welcomed by gardeners due to their love of fruit and soft plant food such as flower petals, but they are a vital part of the food chain and a great natural pest control. They are also excellent parents: the mother stays with the young and takes good care of them licking and cleaning them, but if the young hang around for too long, the parents might end up eating them!

Aphids on plant stem

Aphids © Katrina Martin/2020VISION

Aphids

You can find aphids on growing shoots which they use as a food source. They pierce the stem with their sharp mouth parts to drink the sap. This has led to an extraordinary symbiosis: surplus sap is exuded as a sugary liquid (honeydew) which is often harvested by ants. The ants, in turn, protect aphids from some of their predators. Rose Aphids are typically green or sometimes pink and found on buds and shooting tips of roses in spring and early summer. Blue tits sometimes use them as an alternative food source for their young if other food is scarce.

Bee fly

Bee fly © Paul Thrush

Bee fly

Bee flies are often mistaken for a bee, but it is actually a fly. It is easily recognisable for the long "beak" (the proboscis which can be up to one-third of its total length) and bold brown wing pattern. It darts rapidly from flower to flower and hovers while holding onto flowers to feed. Listen out for a faint high-pitched buzzing. Females drop their eggs in flight near nesting cells of solitary bees and wasps. The larvae can then enter and feed on the pollen, nectar and host larvae.

Woodlouse

Woodlouse © Chris Lawrence

Woodlice

As members of the class Crustacea, woodlice are related to shrimps and crabs. Unlike their aquatic cousins, woodlice have adapted to live on the land where they are mainly nocturnal and live in dark, damp places to prevent drying out during the day. They are a crucial part of the food chain, as they feed on decaying plants and serve as an important food source for birds and mammals. The pill woodlouse can roll up into a tight ball when disturbed to protect itself

Black ant

Black ant © Don Sutherland

Ants (Black garden ants & red ants):

Colonies of black ants – often comprising 4,000 – 7,000 workers - can be found under paving stones or around house foundations. Small heaps of fine soil may indicate the nest location. They are omnivores and eat seeds, small invertebrates and honeydew from aphids. Contrary to red ants, black ants don't sting but will bite if they feel threatened. Red ants can sting and inject a painful acid. Their colonies are smaller than those of black ants and they nest mainly in the soil and sometimes under stones or logs.

Wolf spider

Wolf spider © Chris Lawrence

Wolf spider 

In search for the wolf spider, don't look for a spiderweb. Wolf spiders, modelling the behaviour of their namesakes, are hunters who live on the ground. They're fast runners with excellent eyesight and pounce on their prey, primarily small insects such as grasshoppers, earwigs, ants and flies. Females often carry around an egg case or even the young after hatching.

Millipede

Millipede © Joy Russell

Millipedes

The name millipede is derived from Latin and means "one thousand feet", although millipedes don't actually have 1000 legs but "only" around 100. They can be found in damp locations and are active at night. Their body is made up of segments which - contrary to centipedes which have one pair of legs per segment - have two pairs of legs each. When disturbed, common black millipedes curl up into a coil to protect themselves. Millipedes are nature's recyclers, they feed on decaying plant and are an important part in the decomposition cycle.

Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)

© Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Bumblebees

These gravity-defying pollinators usually have plump, furry bodies can be black, yellow, fawn, white or red, depending on the species of which there are 24. The hairs on their legs form pollen baskets. If you spot a particularly large individual, it is likely to be a queen which emerge in early spring to build a nest and build a colony. 

Garden snail

Garden snail © Nick Upton/2020VISION

Snails

Snails can retract their elongated bodies into their shells. Mucus from a gland behind the mouth helps it move and leaves a shiny trail. Live in damp places like cracks in the wall, under stones or amongst vegetation. In winter and in dry periods, they close the mouth of the shell with dried mucus. 

7 spot ladybird

Seven-spot ladybird © Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

Ladybirds

Ladybirds are well-known for their red wing cases with black spots, although there are also black, yellow and brown ladybirds with spots of red, black and white. They are good flyers and even better predators, climbing plants to hunt aphids and as such are excellent natural pest controllers. When startled, they will withdraw their legs and either clamp to the surface or drop to the ground. They can also exude drops of staining and bitter-tasting fluid. 

Now that we met a few of our favourite minibeast, why not go out and see which ones you can spot yourself? Click on the image below to download your Garden Minibeast Spottersheet. 

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