Life in the Undergrowth
The many invertebrates (minibeasts) found in bushes, hedgerows, grassland,
under logs and stones, everywhere in fact, are not only fun to study but provide
an ideal way to investigate habitats, adaptation and life cycles. They are always
there to be found!
The Orchard has a wide variety of habitats in which to study them. In late April
and May the fruit trees and hedgerows are full of blossom. Ideal for the study of
flowers, pollination, butterflies and bees.
Here are some useful activity suggestions and website links for further
information, worksheets and more activities.
The Fairfield Association/Orchard has bug collecting pots, pooters, sweep nets
and identification charts which you are welcome to borrow. Contact us if you
would like to use them.
Looking for Invertebrate Activity Sessions
Four main activities can be used, in almost any combination to show children the
diversity and interest of looking at invertebrates and the variety of different
habitats they inhabit.
For children to understand the tremendous diversity of the insect / invertebrate
world. For children to appreciate that they are found in nearly every habitat
Some pupils may understand that human action may affect the numbers of
animals found (i.e. use of pesticides, habitat destruction etc).
As part of the national curriculum for KS 2, children need to be able to use a key.
However, they do not need to be able to identify individual species of invertebrate
- even biology degrees do not have to identify species in the field. The important
part of the invertebrate sessions is for children to become aware of, and
interested in, the diversity that is all around them. They can do this just looking
at the general invertebrate family groups.
Impress on the children that these are tiny and delicate animals and can easily be
harmed if care is not taken when collecting. Try not to handle the creatures but
use a soft paintbrush to touch and transfer them into collecting pots. The
invertebrates can also be observed in situ.
The activities can be done in any order, but the pitfall trap must be set up the
night before. It is important to dismantle the trap at the end of the session.
Activity 1 Looking under logs and stones
This activity is good for investigating ground living invertebrates. Carefully lift
logs and stones to see what is under them. Make sure that the logs and stones
are replaced slowly and put back in exactly the same place. Children can use bug
pots and a small, fine haired paintbrush. The creatures can be identified using
simple identification charts and keys. Put the animals back in the same place
Good for discussion about adaptation – why do they live under the logs, what
shape are they?
Activity 2 – Tree and Bush shaking
Very simple in that you only need a sheet and a child at each corner to hold it
taut. Hold the sheet under the branch/bush. Shake the branch vigorously and
watch what happens. Look out for all the different types of caterpillar, flying
insects and munchers of leaves that may come down. A tree supports so many
different species. Hawthorn trees are particularly good for this activity,
supporting a large number of different invertebrates.
Show pupils the larvae compared to the adults found - can talk about life cycles
Again older children can do an investigation - how many different types of bug
can be found on different age/height/species of tree. Also how do the species
found on the tree compare to the species found in the other activities. Insects
are found all around with different types in different places, but all within a very
At the end of the activity, shake the sheet. The creatures will find their own way
Activity 3 - Leaf litter challenge
Investigating all the hidden bugs in leaf litter - particularly good to extend the
season into autumn when the grassland species may well have gone into
Can also be used as a wet weather activity if leaf litter is collected prior to the
session and put into trays. Cat litter trays are ideal for this. Put down newspaper
where the children are investigating to prevent infestations!
Pupils can use the bug pots to catch and examine their finds and practice their
keying skills to classify them. Could use pooters as well if available.
Activity 4 - Grassland sweep
You will need a sweep net and a large see-through plastic container (a large
sweet jar is ideal). Again the children are only looking for how diverse the
species they catch are, maybe identifying them to family level.
Could count number of different types of organisms found.
Again this will be very different from bugs found from other activities.
Activity 5 - Pitfall trap
A way to investigate biodiversity, this time at the ground level.
If traps are set up at night they must be checked every morning.
You can have several traps placed in different habitats, this may result in
different species being found.
Any shrews caught should be released ASAP as they need to feed on a regular
basis - any will have no hesitation about eating specimens!
Traps should not be put out if it is going to rain during the night - everything will
Alternatively, the trap can be left if it is sunk into a slightly higher patch of land
and has a 'roof on it of a couple of small stones with a flat stone on top, so that
no water falls or drains into the trap.
Species found will all be ground dwelling - e.g. woodlice, ants, ground beetles etc.
Older groups could investigate what types of insects are found in traps in
An easy to make minibeast home
Collect some dead twigs of different diameter (of length about 20cm). Arrange
them into a tight bundle of about 5cm. Tie each end with raffia (or some other
bio degradable material. Do not use thin wool as birds will get their feet caught).
Alternatively, paint the outside of the empty cardboard tube from cling film or foil
with PVA glue (half glue mixed with half water), leave to dry. Pack your twigs
Put your bundle into a tree, wall or other suitable place. You could also try
pushing twigs into a cardboard tube. Make regular checks on your bundle to see
who has set up home in it!
Sources of useful information – photographs, identification sheets, activities
Bumble Bee Conservation Trust
Butterfly Conservation Trust
Amateur Entomologists' Society and its Bug Club promote the study of
entomology, especially among amateurs and young people. Activities, events
and help with identification etc.
The Woodland Trust/Nature Detectives
Many downloadable activities and worksheets. Follow the link to nature
detectives or go directly to http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk