Minibeast hunts can either be a part of your daily walk outside or part of a wider event focusing on wildlife, the environment and conservation. What’s fantastic about this activity though, is you can differentiate it easily to match the knowledge of those taking part. For example, for young children, it can just involve taking out a notepad and a camera to document what they find or filling in an identification sheet with a list/pictures of creatures for them to tick off. Or alternatively, you can invite an expert to talk further about the important role these minibeasts play and the wider impact they have on the environment, and help those who are interested to develop their identification skills further.
- Adult citizens
- Children 3-6
- Children 7-12
You can do it with all those groups, but we did it with professionals from different fields like public engagement or the cultural and creative sector.
Insects make up 80 per cent of all creatures on Earth, and they also play a crucial role in many environmental processes that make the planet sustainable for all over life. So it is important to teach people that insects are incredible, and not something that should be avoided or mistreated.
Also, these activities can be easily scaled up or down depending on what you hope to achieve and your target audience. And as insects can be found in almost every environment, bug hunts can be done almost anywhere (of course some places will be better than others for diversity and the number of insects that you might find).
Learning about insects can also be a gateway to other important topics, such as food production, climate change and biology subjects as a whole, and you may want to invite an expert who can talk about these topics further, and help you find and identify the insect you find during your hunt.
Also, if done correctly and carefully, these methods should have little to no impact on the environment, and the animals caught can be released after the event.
This activity can also be done as part of wider event or teaching activity.
Insect hunts can be done with relatively little equipment and for children, this may consist of the following:
- An activity sheet.
- Chunky, soft-bristled paintbrush
- Bug pot (a clean jar or pot with a lid will do)
- A pooter (optional)
- Magnifying glass (optional)
- An invertebrate identification guide (optional)
- Camera or pens and paper
Then you just need to get out and look, shaking tree branches with a white bedsheet or paper underneath can dislodge insects from trees, or looking under rocks, in hedges, or underneath deadwood can yield some great results. Any insects found can be carefully collected for closer inspection in transparent containers.
When a good selection of insects or other invertebrates have been collected, it is useful to talk about the difference between these creatures and what features they have and how you can use these to identify the type of animals the participants have been taught. This is where having an expert involved may come in handy, but a good handbook could also suffice.
For an older audience, it would be recommended to have an expert involved, who can go through some more advanced techniques, with a more detailed explanation on identification, who could also talk more about the importance of these creatures to the wider ecosystem.
This activity could also involve some pond dipping, however, more specific equipment will be required, and further health and safety considerations will be considered.