What is a minibeast? And other minibeast facts

Find out all about minibeasts like centipedes (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

Minibeasts, creepy crawlies, bugs… whatever you like to call them, there’s no doubt they’re fascinating little creatures. We’ve put together some answers to your top minibeast questions.

What is a minibeast?

Ladybird (northeastwildlife.co.uk)
Minibeasts come in all sorts of shapes and sizes (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

The easiest definition is an invertebrate (a creature without a backbone). So that includes insects, spiders, beetles, snails, worms, centipedes… the list goes on. In fact, there are about 25,000 different types of invertebrate living in the UK, and around 20,000 of these are types of insect.

Because invertebrates don’t have a skeleton inside their body, some live in shells (like snails, for example), and others, such as beetles, have a hard covering called an ‘exoskeleton’.

Where do minibeasts live?

They make their homes all over the place – under logs and stones, in leaf piles, in ponds, in trees, bushes and grass, and in the soil. You’re probably even sharing your house with some minibeasts, such as spiders.

What do minibeasts eat?

Honey bee on flower
Lots of minibeasts, like honeybees, suck nectar from flowers (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

They eat all sorts of things. Lots of minibeasts eat plants, and many flying insects feed on nectar from flowers. Others, such as spiders, like to eat other minibeasts.

Some eat much stranger things – for example, some beetles and ants eat wood, worms eat dead stuff in the soil, and dung beetles eat animal poo! That might seem a bit yuk but these creatures do a great job of recycling and improving the quality of the soil so plants can grow.

Some minibeasts, such as ticks and mosquitoes, even like to snack on your blood!

What eats minibeasts?

Lots of other creatures find minibeasts very tasty. These include bats, hedgehogs, frogs and toads, and many birds.

What’s the UK’s biggest minibeast?

Male stag beetle
The stag beetle can be up to 8.5cm long! (Photo: Orchi/Wikimedia Commons)

Hard to say as invertebrates vary so much in size and shape, but these would be strong contenders.

The stag beetle can be up to 8.5cm long – that’s giant for a beetle!

And the largest earthworm ever discovered in the UK was 40cm long – more like a small snake! He was named ‘Dave’ and is now preserved in the Natural History Museum.

Can minibeasts swim?

If they fall into water, most dry land insects will flap around until they get out, but you probably wouldn’t call it swimming. Worms can’t swim but can survive under water for several weeks as they can absorb oxygen through their skin.

There are a lot of minibeasts that live in ponds or rivers but not all of them are good swimmers either – some just hang onto stones or plants, or just crawl around on the bottom. Others, such as the greater water boatman, are excellent swimmers and like to do the backstroke. As they’re very light, some insects – like pond skaters – can even run across the surface of water!

Why not head out with our creepy crawly, flying insects and beetle spotter sheets and explore the wonderful world of minibeasts? Don’t forget to tell us about the tiny creatures you’ve encountered by posting on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter using #NatureDetectives.

Woodland Trust nature identification books
Woodland Trust mini ID books (Photo: WTML)

Grown-ups! Have you seen our fantastic mini ID books? They’re bursting with amazing photos and fab facts to help your Nature Detectives brush up their ID skills. Plus, they’re the perfect size for popping in your pocket!

There’s a book for every interest: minibeasts, fungi, leaves, flowers, butterflies – even animal poo!

You can find them for just £4.99 each on our shop. And if you can’t choose just one, you can get two or more for £4 each. Bargain!

Do you know any other minibeast facts?

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