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Bug Hunting

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There are 27,000 species of insects in the UK, and one study estimated that there are around 200 million creepy crawlies for every person on earth. That's a worldwide population of about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 (ten quintillion)! But it also presents an easy challenge; a bug hunt for the little ones, allowing them to learn more about our planet, how it works and who we share it with.

We've taken some handy tips from The Woodland Trust so you can have fun and learn about native UK insects safely.

What is The Woodland Trust?

In 1972, a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table to discuss how to save their local wood from destruction. The Woodland Trust was born and is now the UK's largest woodland conservation charity. 

Since its founding, it has:

  • Planted over 50 million trees
  • Acquired more than 1,000 woods and forests across the UK, which are free to explore
  • Gained around 500,000 members and supporters who donate and volunteer to help preserve and protect our woodland
  • Fought to protect woodland, trees and natural areas, including street trees, urban nature and loss of natural habitat to development 

Chances are you're not far from a forest or green space. Check out their Find a Wood tool to explore your nearest space.

Be careful - some insects sting or bite. If you're unsure, don't touch them.

Ladybird

What is a minibeast?

Minibeasts are invertebrates – that's anything without backbones. Think bugs like spiders, beetles, snails, worms, centipedes… that sort of thing. But some of these insects have exoskeletons to better protect them from predators, like beetles - they have a hard outer shell.

Technically the term 'bug' is inaccurate because it refers to insects that scientists call 'true bugs'. These insects have a specialised sucking mouthpart which they use to eat plant sap and other fluids, like aphids and bed bugs.

Broadly speaking, most insects share several common characteristics. They usually have six legs, three body sections (head, thorax and abdomen), a pair of antennae, and most have wings and compound eyes.

Grasshopper

Where can I find minibeasts?

Insects live in many habitats; some like dark, damp areas, while others prefer nests and drier surfaces. The best places to look when you're searching for bugs are:

  • Under large stones and logs
  • Around trees, bark and deadwood
  • Long grass and meadow areas
  • Leaves and flowers
  • Ponds, lakes and other damp areas

Top tip from The Woodland Trust

Lots of creepy crawlies live in trees and shrubs. Lay a piece of white cloth, such as an old sheet or pillow case, under a tree or bush and gently shake the branches. You’ll be surprised how many tiny creatures fall out.

Be careful if you pick up bugs and always put them back where you found them

Ingredients for a successful hunt

The great thing about a bug hunt is that you don't need special equipment. You can find everyday items that will help you on your search.

The Woodland Trust recommends that you have:

  • A Bug Box or clear container for holding your insect when studying them
  • A spoon or small paintbrush to help gently scoop up the creepy crawlies
  • A magnifying glass to examine them closely
Bumblebees

Top finds to boost your bug hunt

If you want to up your game, we recommend taking a look at these items...

Insect World Outdoor Explorer Kit

Wowow Toys - Insect World Outdoor Explorer Kit

  • Suitable for boys and girls
  • Catch and study insects safely
  • Includes 1x binoculars, 3x bug pots, 1x magnifying glass, 1x bug catcher scissors, 1x compass, 1x bug net and 5x plastic insects

Available from Amazon

Edu Science Bug Viewer

Just need the basics? Consider the Edu Science Bug Viewer 

  • Magnifying bug pot (does what it says on the tin!)
  • Up to 3.5% magnification 
  • Study insects safely

Available from Amazon

NT Bug ID book

National Trust: Out and About Minibeast Explorer

  • Contains information on over 60 different minibeasts
  • Suitable for ages 8-11
  • Colourful and easy to follow diagrams

Available from Amazon

Go on your own bug hunt with these activity sheets

Other useful links

Woodland Trust - Common UK insects 
Woodland Trust - Identifying wildlife

Thrive - Bug hunt bingo

RSPB - Bug safari

Check with your local council to see if they run kids bug hunts during the holidays.

Ben
Team AR Content Creator

This article was written by Ben. He writes content focusing on the environment and sustainability, tech, road safety and mental health.