Mini beasts – or, to give them their scientific name, “invertebrates” – are incredible creatures and we want to encourage you all to get to know them a little better. Mini beasts include creatures such as butterflies, worms, snails, insects and spiders and they’ve been living on our planet for at least 550 million years. Even though most mini beasts are very small in size, altogether they make up 97% of the living creatures on Earth, and in Britain we have over 25,000 species of mini beasts.
Mini beasts are very important: they have a key role in pollinating plants, help to break down and recycle waste materials and as well as helping grow food we and other animals eat, are themselves a tasty snack for other creatures. Some mini beasts even make things that humans use or eat – for example, bees make honey and silkworms make a fibre that humans turn into silk.
Here are some suggestions of activities you can do from home – be it indoors or in your garden – or while out in your local area on a walk to learn more about the mini beasts that are right on your own doorstep.
Activity 1: make a mini beast ID sheet
There are lots of ready-made ‘spotter sheets’ online – this Woodland Trust sheet is a great one to use – but if you fancy having a go at making your own here’s some suggestions as to how you could do it:
- On an A4 piece of paper, draw a grid with 9 boxes – this is how many mini beasts you’re going to try and spot. You can use a bigger piece of paper, make the grid have more squares or make it on the computer, too.
- In the boxes, add pictures of different mini beasts – you could find them online and either copy & paste them into your grid, or print them before cutting and sticking into your hand-drawn grid; you could go through old magazines and find pictures of mini beasts to cut out and stick to your grid; or, if you’re feeling very creative, you could have a go at drawing pictures of the mini beasts you hope to find.
- Make sure there’s space to add the mini beast’s name, and a box or space that you can check when you’ve spotted the creature, or to keep a tally of how many of that creature you see.
Activity 2: Go on a mini beast hunt
You’ve got your ID sheet, so now’s the time to go and find your mini beasts. Where you go on your hunt is up to you, but we advise you stay at home or close to home.
Before you go on your hunt, think about these things:
Where could I look?
Places to look could include your home, your garden or an outside building (for example, a shed) or your local park?
Where might mini beasts be found?
Think about looking under logs, plant pots, stones or through fallen leaves; on trees, flowers and other plants; in a dark cupboard or under the stairs; around windows; in the grass; or in/around a garden pond. Think about looking in, under and on things.
When am I going to go on my mini beast hunt?
You might find different things depending on the time of day, or the weather. You could try looking for mini beasts in the morning one day and then again in the afternoon another day – do you find the same or different creatures?
What might I need to have or take with me to help me find mini beasts?
Perhaps you need some gloves to keep your hands clean, or you might have a small net for pond dipping. If you want to collect any mini beasts you find to look at them more closely, you could find an empty and clean jam jar and use that before it goes to be recycled, and take a teaspoon to safely scoop up anything you might find.
Perhaps you could take a camera with you and take photographs of where you hunted for mini beasts or what creatures you spotted. This is a great opportunity, too, to see what else you notice about nature while you’re out: do you see any animals or birds, what plants do you see and what sounds can you hear?
Most importantly: don’t forget your ID sheets and a pen or pencil to tick off the mini beasts you see!
Activity 3: make a mini beast house
Many of us have some outside space – it may be a garden, a balcony, or a yard – but no matter what outside space you have, you can help insects have a cosy home, safe from the weather and predators, by building a mini beast house (or hotel!) for them.
We think this article from the Woodland Trust has lots of great ideas, no matter what outside space you have access to.
This RSPB article is a step-by-step guide – and there’s a handy video, too – about how to build a mini beast house.
You could then use your mini beast house to complete your mini beast hunts or keep a regular log on what creatures you see – it may not just be mini beasts that come to whatever you create!