IT'S THE WEEKEND: The Great Outdoors - Discover the interesting insects on your doorstep
10:22am Sunday 18th May 2014 in News
You may think them as creepy crawlies or bugs, but insects have an important role in our eco-system - and they can be beautiful. SOPHIE BROWNSON investigates.
WITH National Insect Week running from June 23 to 29, now is the time to get ahead and get to know the many fascinating insects in your area.
Across the UK 24,043 species of insect have been recorded, according to the Royal Entomological Society Book of British Insects 2011 and just over 1,000,000 species (1,011,740 - same source) have been described worldwide.
If that’s not an impressive fact on its own, what’s more, insects are essential to our way of life with many having practical uses such as breaking down waste so we are not surrounded by it in day-to-day life, as well as acting as pollinators to our plant life.
Dr Luke Tilley, Director of Outreach at The Royal Entomological Society said that the best thing about insects is the fact that they are so diverse and varied, with many different types being found in various locations across the UK.
“From National Insect Week we just hope to raise greater awareness of the importance of insects to the general public,” he said.
“There are over 24,500 species in the UK alone and we are not even a tropical island where you would get huge jumps in variety.
“We want to make people aware of how important they are as often people don’t see them as being interesting, just as being pests.
“But the vast majority of insects are beneficial, as they go about their lives in our habitats pollinating crops that we eat as fruit and vegetables and getting rid of organic matter.”
Dr Tilley believes that as well as being useful studying insects is also a fun way of engaging the children in learning.
“I think it is great for children because you see insects right in front of you and most of the time you can put them in a cup and look at them up close,” he added.
“Most wildlife is insects- insects are a real wealth of biodiversity in the UK as they represent the majority of our wildlife.
"A lot of them are just going about pollinating and as pollinators are in decline people are becoming particularly interested in bees, which I think is a good thing.”
As part of the week, events across the country are being held to get people engaged in learning about insects.
One such event is the sustainable bee keeping course in Monmouthshire which will inform the public on ways they can keep and car for bees as well as giving them the opportunity to meet the bees and learn about their life cycle.
Now in its sixth year and organised by the Royal Entomological Society, the week will see scores of events held across the UK, from bug hunts and bioblitzes to minibeast safaris and moth walks.
National Insect Week coordinator Luke Tilley added: “Insects may be small, but they have a huge impact on the natural world. We already have some fantastic events and initiatives planned for NIW 2014, and we are encouraging everyone to get involved and celebrate the little creatures that shape our environment.”
National Insect Week will also feature its ever-popular photographic competition in which people are invited to submit their best shots of on the theme of ‘Little Things That Run the World’. This year’s competition – launched during Insect Week – is supported by the Environment Agency.
NIW 2014 also supported by a raft of partners nationwide, including the National Trust, National History Museum, the RSPB, Wildlife Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society.
Dr Tilley added: “ We are running our photography competition again (entries open June 23), so people that are out and about over the summer can capture a good insect picture and send it in for cash prizes.”
Kevin Dupe, reserve manager at Natural Resources Wales said that many insects in Gwent can be found at The Gwent Levels such as the Shrill Carder Bee - one of few strong-holds in UK; Silver Diving Beetle - largest beetle in UK; Hairy Dragonfly; Silurian Moth; Hornet Robber-fly ; and the Marsh Frittilary Butterfly.
The Shrill Carder Bee is one of the smaller members of the bumblebee family and has a distinctive combination of markings.
It is a grey-green in colour, with a single black band across the thorax, and two dark bands on the abdomen. The tip of the abdomen is pale orange – the orange tip is an important identification aid. The queens fly quickly and produce a high-pitched buzz. It can be found in only a handful of locations in the UK which include large military ranges, unimproved pastures and can be found in the Gwent Levels.
Another insect which you may spot in Gwent is the Hairy Dragonfly, the UK's smallest Hawker.
It has a distinctly hairy thorax and has oval spots on each abdominal segment, males are dark in appearance and the spots on the abdomen are blue and it has green ante-humeral stripes. Meanwhile the female has yellow markings and much shorter ante-humeral stripes.
They are mainly found near unpolluted, well-vegetated water bodies like the Newport Wetlands Natonal Nature Reserve.
Also look out for the Hornet Robberflies which are predators who sit and wait on a perch for smaller insects to fly past which they catch on the wing. The fly has a brown thorax and a half black and half yellow abdomen and is one of the largest and most easily identified species.
Mr Dupe recommends looking out for the Scarlet Tiger Moth, which can be found from mid June to mid July at Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve.
Organisers of National Insect Week also recommend looking out for the following insects which can be found all over the UK; Spent Spinners;Scorpion Fly; Male Solarity Bees;Ladybirds; Hairy Footed Flower Bee; and Blister Beetle.
To learn more about National Insect Week and the events taking place near you, visit www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk. You can also register your own National Insect Week event through the website: http://nationalinsectweek.co.uk/event_submit.php
And you can follow National Insect Week on Twitter at @insectweek or on Facebook at facebook.com/nationalinsectweek.
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