Look out for 6 minibeasts in the OPAL Bugs Count

08 June 2011

From a devil’s coach horse to a leopard slug, look out for 6 minibeasts in the OPAL Bugs Count survey launching today.

The two-spot ladybird - is it becoming less common due to the harlequin ladybird?

The two-spot ladybird - is it becoming less common due to the harlequin ladybird?

The OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) Bugs Count, led by the Natural History Museum, wants people to search their local area for all sorts of bugs.

Keep a special look out for 6 specific minibeasts - the small tortoiseshell butterfly, devil’s coach horse, leopard slug, two-spot ladybird, tree bumblebee and green shieldbug.

The survey results will help important invertebrate research, finding out things such as whether the familiar two-spot ladybird, Adalia bipuncutata, is declining in numbers due to competition from the non-native harlequin ladybird.

The large leopard slug is a gardener's friend. It eats other slugs.

A leopard slug is a gardener's friend, eating other slugs!

Or, how important parks and gardens are as habitats for the leopard slug, Limax maximus. By the way, this giant slug is a gardener’s friend - it eats fungi, dead leaves and other slugs!

’With our towns and cities expanding, it’s vital we get a better understanding of how our wildlife is being affected by these changes,’ says OPAL project manager John Tweddle.

Rare beetle

If you're lucky, you may find something more unusual as one Museum volunteer did recently. 

They found a new population of the scarlet malachite beetle while on a field trip at the National Trust site at Bookham Common, Surrey

A devil's coach horse. Help find out if is this beetle is found more often in urban or rural areas.

A devil's coach horse. Help find out if is this beetle is found more often in urban or rural areas.

‘The scarlet malachite beetle is one of the UK’s rarest insects and has not been recorded in Surrey for more than 50 years,’ says Max Barclay, Head Curator of beetles at the Museum.

‘This surprising discovery shows that if you get outside with a net, you never know what you might discover.’

Duncan Sivell, Biodiversity Officer at Buglife, who are running a scarlet malachite beetle survey, says, ‘Finding another population of the beetle in a new location shows us that pockets of suitable habitat still exist in the landscape and gives us hope that other colonies may have survived.’

Pocket ID guide
The small tortoiseshell butterfly was oncecommon in gardens but numbers have fallen in recent years.

The small tortoiseshell butterfly was once common in gardens but its numbers have fallen.

The www.OPALexplorenature.org website has a pocket ID guide, field notebook and free Bugs Count pack to download.

You just need to hunt for bugs in plants and shrubs, soil and short grass, on paving and the outsides of buildings. 

Then upload your findings to see how your local area compares to the rest of the country.

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