A Guide to Common Mini Beasts
What are mini-beasts?
The scientific term for mini-beasts is ‘invertebrates’ which means ‘a creature without a backbone’. Because they don’t have a backbone, minibeasts have other structures to support their body and protect them from predators, such as a shell or ‘exoskeleton’ – a hard covering on their outside. There are over 25,000 different minibeast species in Britain – so many it makes them easy to find!
Types of Mini Beast
‘Isopod’ means ‘seven pairs of legs’, which is how many legs mini beasts in this group have. This group includes species that live in the sea, in fresh water, or on land and includes woodlice.
Arachnids include spiders and Harvestmen and they have four pairs of legs and two body parts. Whilst Harvestman may look similar to spiders they can’t spin webs and don’t have fangs, unlike spiders. The World Spider Catalogue (WSC) – the organisation that officially lists spiders – has now recorded 50,000th arachnid species!
Insects have three body parts, a head, thorax and abdomen and three pairs of legs. Starting life as an egg they become a larvae before becoming an adult. They are the most common type of mini beast. This group of mini beasts includes the social insects, such as ants, bees and wasps and beetles, such as the ladybird.
Annelids are ‘segmented’ worms, including earthworms and leeches. They have neither arms, nor legs, nor an exoskeleton. There are over 70 species of earthworm in the UK!
Molluscs – gastropods
Molluscs move on one muscular foot. Many live in water and some, like snails, have a shell which provides protection from predators. This group includes snails, slugs and shellfish.
Myriapods (many legs)
‘Myriapod’ means many legs and all the mini beasts in this group have between 10 and 200 pairs of legs. Most prefer to live in damp, dark places – in the soil, under stones or within dead leaves. They can be as long as 30cm or so tiny you’d need a microscope to see them! Centipedes and millipedes are included in this group.
Common Mini Beasts
You can find minibeasts almost everywhere you look. In your back garden, local park or school playground – look under a rock, lift up a log, on a tree or under some dead leaves. In the UK you’re more likely to find certain mini-beasts – have a look at our list of common mini-beasts and then go out and see how many you can spot. How many can you find that aren’t on our list?
Ants are social and live in a large colony. There are over 50 species in the UK! Depending on the species they can be carnivores or omnivores.
Ladybirds can be seen between March and October. There are 46 different types in the UK and the ‘Harlequin’ is the most common.
The most common type of snail is the garden snail. They eat dead and dying plants and lay up to 200 eggs! They hibernate during winter.
Bumblebees are large and furry and rarely sting. They live in groups with a queen and workers. During winter only the queen hibernates.
Earthworms live in the soil, eating dead organic matter and helping to bring nutrients to the surface. There are over 70 different species in the UK.
There are 650 species of spider in the UK! They are carnivores and most spin a web to catch their prey. Some species hunt or create traps to capture prey.
A butterfly changes during it’s life cycle from an egg to a caterpillar to a cocoon and finally emerges as a butterfly. There are 59 different species in the UK.
Centipedes have many legs, although none have exactly one hundred. They can move very quickly! They hunt prey and give it a poisonous bite to kill it.
There are 35 species of woodlice in the UK. They eat dead wood. The females can have around 250 babies! When threatened they roll into a ball.
The honey bee lives in a colony of up to 50,000 bees! The colony is made up of a queen and workers. They make honey from the nectar they collect from flowers.
Wasps live in colonies of around 2000 other wasps. They like sweet food like nectar although they feed their larvea dead insects.
There are over 30 species of slug in the UK. They are omnivores and will eat a wide range of food. They are nocturnal, eating at night and sleeping in the day.