Grassland Mini Beasts

Summertime and the grass is long and may seem at first glance that not much is living in it – but take a closer look and a whole new miniature world exists, just waiting to be discovered.

One way to observe is to simply get down close and look. This will reveal some creatures, but a much more productive way is to use a sweep net designed specifically for the job. These can catch large numbers of a selection of grassland creatures in just a few sweeps.

A small, green grassland insect

They can be bought from specialist companies but a cheaper option may be to make your own from such items as old tennis racket, pillow case and drawing pins or plastic ties.

 

How to make a sweep net

This video from Ecosapien will teach you how to make your own sweep net at home.

Discover

With your sweep net, simply find some long grass that is relatively thistle free. Thistles or thorns will damage nets. In dry weather, sweep two or three times in a figure of eight motion back and forward across the tops of the grass. Then peer into the net to discover various mini-beasts such as beetles, spiders, flies, dayflying moths and a vast variety of bugs. After looking at them turn the net inside out and shake to release them all safely back into their grassland home.

Two insects on a purple flower

Identifying what’s in your net can be a little daunting at first with everything appearing to look the same. With a little practice subtle differences can be spotted and creatures put in to families of beetles, flies, spiders or bugs.

Bugs will make the majority of the catch and one excellent website to checkout out for bugs is www.britishbugs.org.uk. Some of the most numerous to be found will be the common grass bugs which suck the sap out of the grass while equally common are the Damsels bugs that are sucking the life out of the sap sucking grass bugs.

A smaller selection but equally fascinating catch of summer spiders is likely to be found three of the commoner species are pictured here; the Crab, Small Wolf and Long-jawed. You can find out more at the British Spiders website here.

Find out more

Various beetles may turn up but one of the most likely will be Soldier beetles brightly coloured predators of the flower heads. Flies often pose a problem as many fly off before you can look at them.

For further information on how you can join in surveys check out www.buglife.org.uk and to find out more about National Insect Week.

For all these creatures, home is often long grass that doesn’t get regularly mown where possible leaving this favoured habitat will give a home to a multitude of these little but important creatures that help run the world.