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There are over 24 000 species of insect in the UK. This might sound like a lot but worldwide there are over 1.2 identified species, and still many yet to be discovered. To put this in perspective – there are around 6 400 species of mammals that have been identified worldwide. In the UK alone, there are over 7 000 species of true flies. This is incredible diversity but sadly understudied and misunderstood in many cases.

Spring is when many insects start to emerge and you should see many buzzing, flying and crawling around your garden and so it’s a fantastic opportunity to start getting your insect ID skills developed especially if you are going away on expedition.

Types of insects you’ll see include beetles (coleoptera), true flies (diptera), butterflies and moths (lepidoptera) and bees (hymenoptera). If you live close to a river, pond or lake you might even get some dragonflies/damselflies (Odonata) or even mayflies (ephermoptera) showing up. Surveying insects can be tricky as they are small and fast moving but if you want to get to see them up close, there are a few basic surveys you can do to help you get a closer look.


Photo by Becca Orange


Light Trap – this is perfect for getting to know your nighttime fauna better. We have over 200 species of moths in the UK and they are all extremely beautiful. You can buy Robinson and Skinner traps online if you are keen, but you do a make-shift trap if you don’t want to splash out. All you need is a white sheet and bright light – hang up your white sheet, put your bright light behind the sheet and then sit and wait. You should get all kinds of insects and invertebrates coming to it! It is best to run light traps on cloudy nights, or when there is no moon in the sky.

Butterflies and moths are some of the most popular insects and they have been well-documented although there is still much of their life history to be discovered. If you come on the Opwall UK Field Courses at the Knepp Estate you may run into purple emperors (who are normally tree-top dwellers but sometimes come down to take salts from bins and dung). We have also found poplar hawkmoths, canary-shouldered thorn moth and buff tip moths. Buff tips are always a treat as they are camouflaged to look like bits of twigs!


Photo by Elen Griffith


Light traps also attract other insect orders such a beetles and flies. In Honduras, we find jewel scarab beetles which have beautiful iridescent elytra in all colours of the rainbow.

You can also look at other others using sweep net and pooters. Take your net, sweep it in a figure of eight motion while walking around eight bases, and use a good amount of vigour (don’t be shy) – and you should get up with a good number of insects and invertebrates in your net.  Swish it closed, then get your pooter ready, hold your net up and then be brave and stick your head in (with your pooter) and then you can suck up any insects of interest. The insects will be sucked into the chamber of the pooter, allowing you a better look at them. At this time of year you will notice many species of hover fly around. Our favourites are the drone fly (Eristalis tenax) which is a type of honeybee mimic which you will find around flowers. Another favourite is the Batman hoverfly (Myathropa florea) which has a mini batman signal on it’s thorax. These flies can often be found hanging around woodland. We have found these hoverflies and more at our Knepp Estate project.


Photo by Helen Clark

Title photo by Fran Anderson

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Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
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