Saturday, 20 March 2010

Family Fun Day Bug Hunt

Despite the heavy rain the day went okay. I started with as introduction to urban invertebrates and a perception quiz to show that even the invertebrates we think are dangerous or damaging to gardens have a  very important role in the ecology of the garden.

We then hunted for invertebrates in an overgrown area of the grounds and discovered many invertebrates including the following.

Black Millipede
Wolf Spider
Small white slugs
Small black slugs
Woodlice common
Woodlice pygmy
Pill bug
Garden snail
Red ant
Beetle larvae
Peacock butterfly

Some of the smaller invertebrates were observed using dinocams attached to laptops
A wolf spiders hairy legs

The peacock butterfly was quite a surprise because of the weather. This species overwinters as an adult so can be seen quite early in the year. We had hoped to see bees, hoverflies etc but did not find any because of the weather.

We then explored the pond. Armed with nest the children collected some invertebrates from the pond to observe close up and discuss. This included the whirligig beetle that whizzes around on the surface film and pond skaters that also travel on the surface film. The whirligig beetles feed mainly on mosquito larvae and similar creatures while the pond skater specialises in feeding on insects that fall into the pond.
The list of animals observed include the following.

Whirligig beetles
Beetle larvae
Mayfly larvae
Water boatman
Lesser water boatman
Spider (on surface film - not seen close up)
Pond skaters
Blood worm
Pond snail

We also observed frog spawn and juvenile sticklebacks.
Whirligig beetle and stickleback
Leeches can change the shade of their body to match their surrounding

We observed some of the animals up close using the dinocams and laptops

We discussed the importance of ponds to wildlife in general.  We discussed how many of these insects/larvae are transient, capable of travelling from pond to pond. They survive underwater with the aid of breathing tubes, gills or by carrying a bubble of air with them. Despite the weather everybody seemed to enjoy the day

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