Ladybirds are beetles from the family Coccinellidae. There are over 45 different species found in the UK. Some of these will very familiar to many people, with their bright colours and red or black spots. Other species, known as inconspicuous ladybirds, have more drab and muted colouring. In the video below you can learn how to make your own origami ladybird. Origami is the art of folding paper into shapes and decorations, that originated in Japan. All you need to make this origami ladybird is a square piece of paper (ideally black, yellow, red or orange), a black colouring pen, a white piece of chalk and a spare few minutes:
As you can see, I tried decorating my origami to look like ladybird species that we would find here in the UK. If you want to do the same there are some helpful ID guides by the Woodland Trust and the UK Ladybird Survey. Show us pictures of your Origami Ladybirds either in the comments below or email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Try out a new technique for finding insects with HOPE Learning Officer, Kate.
Have you found any interesting insects lately? Along with the other HOPE Learning Officers, I have been out and about in Oxfordshire schools where we have found some fantastic insects. Among my recent favourites is the thick-legged flower beetle, Oedemera nobilis .
These beautiful beetles are distinctive with their stunning emerald-green colour and their chunky thighs which are seen only in the males. We have also found lots of varied species of ladybird including cream spot, 14-spot and eyed ladybirds. Generally, we collect insects using sweep nets and beating trays but, of course, you might be lucky enough to find some interesting insects just by looking in the right places. Under stones, logs, leaves, in amongst long grass or on flowers are all excellent places to start. Insects, however, are very good at hiding so why not make a pitfall trap? This can be a great way to find a range of insects, particularly ground beetles.
Here are the written instructions.
You will need:
A small pot such as a clean yoghurt pot
A trowel for digging
A few stones
A small piece of wood or a flat stone to act as a rain cover
What to do:
Find a good spot for your trap on level ground, amongst vegetation.
Dig a hole big enough to sink your pot so that it is completely level with the ground.
Place the pot into the hole. You can put a few leaves, small stones and twigs in the pot to make any insects you catch feel at home.
Build a cover over the trap by placing stones around the pot and resting a flat stone or piece of wood on top. Make sure there is enough space for insects to crawl under. This will stop the pot filling with water if it rains.
Wait for a few hours or, better still, overnight.
When you are ready, empty your pot carefully into a tray so you can see what has fallen in. Take photos so that you can have a go at identifying what you have caught.
Remember to check your pitfall trap every day and return any creatures carefully to a sheltered spot in vegetation.
We would love to know what you find! Let us know by commenting below or by using the Contact Us page. Happy insect collecting!
Professor Helen Roy, President of the Royal Entomological Society, tells us about a group of insects that interest her most: ladybirds. Also known as ladybugs, ladybirds are in fact beetles. In this video, Helen shares three of her favourites.
Which ladybirds have you spotted? Can you find any of Helen’s favourites? Do you have a favourite of your own? Let us know in the comments section below, or send us a message via the Contact Us page.
Ladybird images credit: Flickr / Gilles San Martin CC BY-SA 2.0
Being near the bottom of the food chain isn’t ideal. Insects have many different predators including lots from the insect world itself and that’s before you’ve even started to take account of all the birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals that consider insects an important part of their diet. So how do insects dodge death and defend themselves against predators? Read on to find out about some cunning techniques and surprising solutions!
Did you know that some species of ladybird have clever, and some rather disgusting, ways of deterring predators? Not only do many species display the bright warning colours of red or yellow combined with black, but some can exude a stinky yellow liquid through their knees when in danger. This is called reflex bleeding because the liquid is made from their blood. You may have noticed it if you have picked up a ladybird and seen yellow spots of liquid on your hand.
Other insects can squirt noxious fluids into the air when they feel threatened. Wood Ants, for example, spray formic acid. The incredible Bombardier Beetle (seen here on the right) can combine two different liquids stored in separate chambers in its abdomen to produce a boiling hot chemical that literally explodes from the beetle’s rear. I wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of that!
Cloaks of Invisibility
For many insects, protection from predators is all about not being seen. There are some amazing masters of disguise whose camouflage is so good we have trouble spotting them. For example, many moths are almost invisible when resting in their preferred habitat such as on the bark of trees.
How many insects can you spot?
Another form of camouflage is to disguise yourself as an object of no importance, such as a twig. When threatened, this beetle (Platyrhinous resinosis) rolls over, draws in its legs, lies very still and looks just like a bird poo!
Masters of Disguise
If you can’t blend in with your background, you could always be a master of mimicry and pretend to be something really scary! This Hornet Clearwing is not actually a hornet with a powerful sting. It’s a moth, but by mimicking the colours and form of the hornet it will manage to put off many a hungry bird!
Some insects have formidable weapons that may serve to fend off rivals, help catch prey and deter predators. Look at the ferocious jaws of the Stag Beetle or the sharp pincers, or forceps, at the rear end of the earwig. They might make you think twice before tackling these guys! In fact, the jaws of the Stag Beetle are all show! They are actually quite weak and may even prevent Stag Beetles from feeding in their adult form. The fact that they exist at all just shows how effective they are at warding off predators.
Let us know if you have a favourite story about how insects dodge death and survive in a world full of predators.
Insects have some really cool super powers and surviving extreme temperatures is one of them! Have you ever wondered how insects manage to survive in the cold winter months?
In the Summer, insects are all around us but in Winter they seem to disappear. Where do they go and how do they survive the extremes of winter? Unlike us, insects can’t put on a coat, hat and gloves or turn up the central heating! With such a small body size, they could easily freeze as the temperature drops but they have some pretty cool ways of making sure their species continues to the next generation.
Take a look at these ideas. Who you think is right? Do you have a different idea?
Zane, Zeb, Zora and Zip are all right!
Strategy 1: Diapause
This is similar to mammalian hibernation where adults survive the winter in a state of torpor or dormancy. Insects find suitable places to spend the winter such as holes in dead wood, under leaf litter or inside sheds and other buildings. They then become inactive, their heart rate slows right down and some insects even produce anti-freeze chemicals to stop them from freezing.
Here are some insect species that undergo diapause:
During the Winter, only the queen bumblebee survives and amazingly all the other bumblebees die. The queen spends the winter in an underground burrow already carrying the eggs that will be the next generation.
Butterflies such as Peacocks, Brimstones and Red Admirals shelter in garden sheds during diapause. Sometimes you can find them inside houses – do not disturb!
Ladybirds huddle together in groups, for example, under bark of trees.
Strategy 2: Seasonal Lifecycles
The adult form of many insect species will not survive the winter but one of the other stages of their lifecycle (either the eggs, larvae or chrysalises) will survive by keeping warm in places such as leaf litter, under bark or in long grass waiting to be activated by the warmth of the sun in the spring.
The larval stage of the Stag Beetle and the Purple Emperor butterfly survive the winter, but the adults die.
Strategy 3: Migration
A few British insects such as the Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow butterflies migrate to Africa for the Winter. Individual Painted Ladies have been recorded making journeys of nearly 2,500 miles. Unlike birds, the same individuals do not make the return journey the following year – that journey is made by a new generation.
Strategy 4: Remain Active
Lots of insects do, in fact, remain active in the winter. It is just harder to find them because they are keeping warm under leaf litter, amongst long grass or, in the case of aquatic insects, under water. Most insects who do this are just feeding and waiting for the Spring when they can find a mate and reproduce but some species, such as Winter Moths and December Moths, reproduce during the winter months.
We would love to see your photos or hear about insects you have seen this Winter. What can you find in your garden or local outside spaces? Be careful not to disturb them too much! You can tell us about it using the form on our Contact Us page, or email us at email@example.com.