Did you know there's a spider which lives in your garden that can jump nearly 10 times it's body length?
Or that Ladybirds are known to fly at speeds of 35mph?
Our Park Ranger Craig introduces us to the into the fascinating world of mini-beasts below…
"Many of us have started to see lots of new life emerging as the sun makes a return. I have mentioned bees, birds and butterflies in previous blogs, however these are not the only animals starting to emerge this time of year – just as important is insect life.
Insects are the baseline of the food chain and a strong indicator of healthy ecosystems. It is a step up from plant life, but is the second point in the chain to sustain a strong, healthy and symbiotic ecosystem. I have selected a few of the best mini-beasts that you should be on the lookout for in the coming weeks, highlighting some interesting points about this micro wilderness. Something that many of us might like to explore.
To start with is this odd little fella who’s appearance seems more suited to desert sand-dunes than here in the UK! The Zebra Spider enjoys basking in the sun and is often found roaming around stones, rotting wood and sunny pavement. I first remember discovering these spiders on a table outside, and realizing this spider leapt like a tiddly wink every time I got my finger close. Their fangs and big eyes seem to grip me and ever since this disbelief of a jumping spider, in my back garden, I have always been amazed by them. At the size of only 5-7mm, they can jump up to 10cm – nearly 10 times their body length!
This is the equivalent of a person jumping around 18 metres with ease every time they jump, (bearing in mind the current record is 8.95 meters). They do this by pumping blood directly into their legs at high pressure. This is the main way that they hunt silently and with no trace, this along with huge fangs and near 360 degree vision, makes them a very formidable predator. These spiders also have very little in the way of webbing, only needed for a safety line if they overestimate their jump. This little garden friend is a cute looking creature that will keep other unwanted creepy crawlies away from you house without the need for unsightly webs.
The Garden Tiger Moth, very much like it's name is a stunning creature that seems it should belong to something much grander than the realms of Moth, but in that Kingdom it lays and wears the name proudly as it should. This is a night time flying moth that struggles to stay out of sight in the day due to its tremendous display of colours and is often seen around the edge of gardens and on garden walls towards the end of summer, though you may see them start to pop up now due to recent sunny weather. It might seem that these creatures are taunting predators with such displays of colours, especially sleeping in the open during the day. However, just like it was when it is a caterpillar, The Garden Tiger Moth is covered in small irritating hairs and their bright colours are there to remind predators that they are unpleasant tasting. These moths are also a fantastic pollinator, drinking and eating nectar of flowers. You could call it a butterfly in disguise or the ‘Peacock of Moths’.
Out of the 46 ladybird species, the Two Spotted Ladybird is the most common in the UK, and is the one that is most likely getting trapped in your houses in the Winter months… and now as they begin to take flight. Ladybirds are one of the greatest pesticides in the garden as they eat up to 50 pesky Aphids a day. Ladybirds are known to fly at speeds of 35mph and at the height of nearly 3,500 ft. These bugs are just as important as a pollinator and will visit gardens with wildflowers and long grass. These small lives are the backbone of the grander ecosystems and life that we see around us. Unfortunately, the Two Spotted Ladybird is now under threat from the Harlequin Ladybird which has become one of its main predators and threatens its territory and resources on a daily basis. The Harlequin is often seen as the ‘classic’ Ladybird but this is not the case.
This was just a small window into the world of mini-beasts, a fascinating and exciting world which we are constantly learning about. The study of such has sparked engineering and science alike, along with being the inspiration for many sci-fiction novels and movies. They have helped us design and develop many modern technologies. Without this base layer, which is often overlooked, much of the world around us would not exist nor would it be able to function as it does now. These are vital to the structures of the world. If you wish to know more or share what you have found in your gardens, please feel free to get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org "