Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mini Beasts

In Scotland, if you attend primary school, around the age of 8 (I think) you will encounter a topic called Minibeasts. This is your introduction to entomology - the study of insects. You will probably go on a trip to a country park where a nice Ranger will show you some bugs and insects. They might set up a workshop for you where you can look at them through a magnifying glass. You may find it so fascinating that you will not hear the teacher tell you to line up in twos for the next activity, and she may shout at you to to "get over here right now" You will then do some worksheets and maybe back in the classroom, do a quiz on an internet site about "creepy crawlies!". Then you will move on to do the Egyptians.

Never mind. Just pop out into the garden, park, or even your doorstep and you can watch insects for as long as you like - then read up on them afterwards. Like this common hoverfly, for instance. It sat on the door handle, sunbathing for ages. It looks a bit like a bee or wasp - quite a good style if you don't want birds to eat you. It is very useful as it eats pollen, therefore helps pollinate plants, and it's larvae eat aphids - green and blackfly. A beautiful creature.

Or how about this 7 spotted ladybird? (sorry I didn't wash my hands there). Ladybirds are actually beetles and they eat tons of aphids, so they are a very good thing to have in the garden. At this time of year they are looking for somewhere to hibernate. Why not leave some hollow stemmed plant stalks lying in a sheltered place for them? This one was very friendly and stayed for ages, before we put him/her into some undergrowth. In the olden days people thought that eating ladybirds cured toothache - they produce a yellow oily substance thought to have painkilling properties. It might very well be true - a lot of old knowledge has been lost, but they are so useful it would be better not to try it out - just brush your teeth like the dental people tell you.

Scared of spiders? Don't be. They eat flies and mites and areperfectly harmless in this country. This is a house spider - probably a male one, because it has a narrow body and long legs. It is crawling up a rather dusty looking door post (sorry about that too!) , but it posed very obligingly for several minutes while I faffed about with my camera. You will probably see quite a few house spiders around now, as it is their mating season (don't know if you've done that topic yet - ask your teacher what it means), so please don't hit them with a magazine - catch them in your hand or in a tumbler and put them outside. Pity the poor males - once they have had their moment of paradise, the female eats them alive!

Can you see this spider? It is very tiny on the head of this beautiful dandelion. It was too small to see, but it is probably one of the money spiders. They usually live outside, but sometimes you may see one in the house. They are called money spiders because it used to be thought that if one crawled on you then you would be rich! I like that old tale better than the ladybird one.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my minibeast topic. I wont shout at you like that teacher I saw at the nature park. Come back anytime - the bugs are just out there waiting for you to meet them. Check out somewhere like Wild about Britain, if you need help in identifying them. Don't let your interest in insects and wildlife die and become like an Egyptian mummy.


Debs said...

Wow, thanks for the lesson! House spiders do disturb me slightly I'm afraid, and I sometimes have to get DH to put them outside. But I'm much better with moths than I used to be - I used to have a real phobia but since having R it's just vanished and I love them now, even try to attract them so I can have a good look!

Debs said...

PS I'd like to invite you to my private blog but I don't know your email address - If you'd like me to invite you please email me and I'll send an invite. :) xxx

Lisa G said...

Bugs also creep me out a bit I have to say, though I am better than I was which is just as well with all the plans I have in the garden. Luckily I don't seem to have passed this on to Girl 2, she will happily pick up anything with many legs and study it! Thanks for the link.
Lisa x

Arlenkern74 said...

i love the way you've approached this, very true in every sense, how right you are about schools !(don't even get me started !) mini beasts we love them , all of them (except slugs maybe !) xx

sue said...

Oh thank you so much for our wonderful mini beasts adventure :)
I have to admit that I thought the fly was a wasp....oops :(
sue xx