THE IMPORTANCE OF INSECTS IN THE UK
In the UK there are a staggering 27,000 types of insects. Some are tricky to tell apart, even for the experts. Let's take a look at some of our most commonly encountered insect groups and the clues we need to look for to help narrow them down.
Broadly speaking, invertebrates are animals without a backbone and include multi-legged, hard-bodied minibeasts, known as arthropods, as well as corals, slugs and snails, worms and soft-bodied sea creatures. Arthropods can then be separated into groups including crustaceans (such as crabs and woodlice), spiders and insects.
Insects share a number of characteristics to help you separate them from the crowd:
- SIX LEGS
- THREE BODY SECTIONS (HEAD,THORAX AND ABDOMEN)
- PAIR OF ANTENNAE
- COMPOUND EYES
- MOST HAVE WINGS
- THREE OR FOUR STAGE LIFE CYCLE (EGG,LARVA OR NYMPHS,PUPA AND ADULT)
Insects come in a number of groups, or 'orders', not all of which have representatives here in the UK. Let's explore nine of the more frequently encountered minibeast types and some of their more well-known members.
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES: 7 SPOT LADYBIRD
- active from early spring to autumn, hibernating through winter, sometimes indoors
- widespread across the UK in gardens, woodland and grassland habitats feeding on aphids
- when threatened, extrudes a nasty-tasting yellow substance from its leg joints to put off predators
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :DADDY LONGLEGS
- long and ungainly legs and erratic flight pattern
- emerge as adults from lawns and grassland in late summer and mostly active at night
- contrary to popular belief, craneflies are not poisonous and cannot bite or sting
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :HAWTHORN SHIELD BUG
- speckled green and red wing cases with a distinctive green ‘shield’ shape in the centre
- adults are most active in late summer
- feed on the ripening berries of hawthorn, rowan and cotoneaster and often found in gardens
4.BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :SMALL WHITE BUTTERFLY
- faded black wing tips and one or two small spots
- known as 'cabbage whites' after their favourite caterpillar food plants
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :COMMON EARWIG
- most active at night, but can be found beneath decaying wood, in leaf litter or on flowering plants
- pincers curved in males and almost straight in females
- mothers care for their eggs and young
6.GRASSHOPPERS AND CRICKETS
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES : MEADOW GRASSHOPPER
- feeds on long grasses through the summer
- males have longer wings than females
- appears in a variety of colours, including green, brown and bright pink
7.BEES, WASPS AND ANTS
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :COMMON CARDER BEE
- ginger-coloured bumblebee common in gardens
- workers become active in spring, but only queens overwinter to form new colonies
- builds nests in grassy tussocks
8.DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :COMMON BLUE DAMSELFLY
- active throughout spring and summer, usually near a source of water, but often seen in gardens
- males are bright blue and black, females a paler grey
- unlike dragonflies, damsels rest with wings alongside their bodies
SPOTLIGHT SPECIES :COMMON MAYFLY
- dark spots on the wings and triangular markings along the body
- breeds in ponds and slow moving water in England
- contrary to popular belief, this particular species of mayfly can appear at any time over the summer
- Insects are incredibly important. They recycle decaying material. They pollinate plants. They feed a huge variety of birds, mammals and other animals. Without them we would be unable to grow food, and much of the other wildlife we treasure would be lost forever.
- A single mature oak tree is home to as many as 350 species of insect alone, and mixed, native woodlands support even more. With healthy woodlands come abundant insects and thriving people and wildlife.
Insects are incredibly important in many aspects as they recycle decaying material, they pollinate plants and they feed a huge variety of birds, mammals and other animals. Without them we would be unable to grow food, and much of the other wildlife we treasure would be lost forever.
A single mature oak tree is home to as many as 350 species of insect alone, and mixed, native woodlands support even more. With healthy woodlands come abundant insects and thriving people and wildlife.