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Watching Minibeasts

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 25 Aug 2012 |
Minibeast Arthropod Spider Insect

Minibeasts are small invertebrates and include arthropods such as spiders, insects, woodlice, centipedes and millipedes, as well as slugs and snails and worms. Invertebrates are animals without backbones, which means that they are either soft bodied, like slugs, snails and worms, or have a hard outer skeleton like insects and other arthropods.

Making a Pooter

A pooter is a simple way to catch small minibeasts without hurting them. Release the minibeasts where they were found after examination.

Cut a piece of card to fit the top of a glass jar, and make two holes in it. Cover the end of a piece of flexible tubing with a piece of muslin or dishcloth, and fix it on with an elastic band, so that it can’t fall off. Put this tube or straw through one of the holes, so it will go into the jar a short distance, and seal round the tube and hole in the card using Blu-Tack or Plasticine. Put a second, longer piece of flexible tubing through the other hole, so that it goes two thirds of the way down the jar, and seal it to the lid. Tape the card to the top of the jar.

To make a sturdier pooter, drill two holes the same size as the tubing in the jar lid and push the tubes through. They might still need sealing.

Put the end of the longer tube over a small minibeast and suck on the shorter tube. The muslin should stop the minibeast and any dirt being breathed in.

Watching Minibeasts

Use a magnifying glass or a low power microscope to look at the minibeasts. How many legs do they have? What shapes are their bodies? Do they have wings? How big are they? If one side of the jar is in the light and the other is in the dark, which side to they prefer?

Identifying Minibeasts

Use a book or an identification key to find out what the minibeasts are. A key asks questions to help identification, for example ‘does it have wings?’ ‘Does it have six legs?’

Homes for Minibeasts

It’s generally best to leave minibeasts outside where there are in their natural habitat. There are ways to make the garden more attractive to minibeasts.

Planting herbs and wildflowers will attract butterflies to the garden, as will flowering plants that have a lot of nectar in their flowers, such as buddleia, also known as the butterfly bush, verbena and lilac.

Some minibeasts, such as butterflies, may over-winter in a garden shed or in overgrown areas, so try not to disturb them.

Homes for minibeasts are easy to make and will help them survive the winter. Solitary bees, such as mason bees, will live in holes drilled in an old wooden post, or in a tin or flowerpot stuffed full of short lengths of bamboo or hollow twigs. Lacewings, ladybirds and dragonflies may over-winter in these too. Beetles and centipedes can over-winter in piles of logs. Just tucking fallen leaves and twigs under hedges and in corners of the garden will give many minibeasts places to live.

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