30 Days Wild Day 9: Mini beast hunt
Look under leaves, lift up logs (placing them back down carefully), peer into cracks and crevices – who knows what miniature marvels you might find! Some of our most common and overlooked plants, like brambles and nettles, can be a great place to start as insects love them. The broad, flat flowerheads of umbellifers are also worth checking, as they’re very popular with many flies and beetles.
We’ve pulled together a short list of species you could spot this June to inspire you, but this is just a tiny snapshot of the wildlife waiting to be discovered!
These animals can often be found in parks, gardens, and a variety of common habitats across most of the UK – though you might have to search to find them.
Common blue butterfly
This bright blue gem of a butterfly is found in all kinds of grassy places across the UK, especially where the bright yellow flowers of bird’s-foot trefoil grow – the favourite food of its caterpillars. You might find common blues in parks, woodland clearings, cemeteries, on road verges or golf courses, and even in larger gardens.
This odd-looking insect is neither a fly nor a scorpion – they belong to an ancient order of insects called Mecoptera. Don’t be fooled by the scorpion-like tail as males only have these for courtship; they don’t sting. Scorpion flies feed on fruit as well as dead (and dying) insects, sometimes stolen from spiderwebs. They live in gardens, hedgerows and woodland edges, and are often seen on nettles or brambles. There are three species in Britain that are hard to tell apart, but they aren’t found in Northern Ireland.
This bold, black and red butterfly is a common sight in meadows, parks and gardens with lots of flowers. Red admirals are migrant butterflies that make impressive journeys from North Africa and continental Europe, though some now overwinter in the UK. Their caterpillars love to munch on common nettles.
Common blue damselfly
One of our most common damselflies, this slender insect can be seen around almost any body of water, from tiny ponds to lakes and rivers. There are several similar species in the UK, but male common blues can be identified by the rounded, mushroom-shaped black marking at the top of their abdomen, just behind the base of the wings. Females are darker overall and have a less distinctive thistle-shaped marking.
This purplish-brown and green bug takes its name from the tiny brown hairs that cover its body, though you’ll have to look very closely to see them! Hairy shieldbugs are often found around hedgerows and woodland edges. Other shieldbugs to look out for include the green shieldbug and the red-legged shieldbug. In June, you may see the adults or the young, which are known as nymphs.
This striking black and red moth is often seen flying on sunny days, but you’re perhaps more likely to spot its stripy black and yellow caterpillars chomping on ragwort plants. Cinnabars can be found almost anywhere that ragwort is left to grow, including grasslands, sand dunes, old quarries and former industrial areas, even in towns and gardens.
These animals are still fairly common and widespread, but are less likely to be seen in most parks and gardens.
This little brown and orange butterfly is best spotted on sunny days, fluttering and perching close to the ground. Small heaths usually perch with their wings closed, showing a big black eyespot on the underside of the forewing to confuse predators. They like open, dry grassy areas like heaths, sand dunes and former quarries.
Green tiger beetle
This shimmering green beetle is a fierce predator, which sprints across the ground to catch spiders, ants, caterpillars, and other invertebrates. Green tiger beetles like sunny spots with lots of bare ground, and are often found on heaths, sand dunes, hillsides and former industrial sites.
This active dragonfly can be recognised by the two dark marks on the leading edge of each of its wings. Four-spotted chasers are often found around the edges of shallow lakes and rivers, where there are lots of tall plants for them to perch on.
This striking moth is named after a prophetess who died in 1561 – if you look closely at its wings, you can see dark markings that are supposed to look like her face, with a long nose and pointy chin! Mother Shiptons are found in flower-rich grassy places, especially where clovers and trefoils grow. They fly during the day, fluttering from flower to flower. They aren’t as commonly seen as some of the other species, so you might need a bit of luck to find one.