Wildlife Garden Autumn BioBlitz|Citizen Science

A BioBlitz is a race against the clock to find and record as many living things as possible within a specific area over a set period of time. These observations are then used for scientific research and environmental monitoring by our wildlife garden managers and are shared with scientists in the UK and abroad. Our Autumn BioBlitz in the Wildlife Garden was on the 21st October, we had typical autumn weather with a lot of rain, but still saw interesting wildlife.

This BioBlitz saw the first use of the BioBlitz Activity Card, to guide BioBlitzers through the steps needed to record wildlife.

BioBlitz Activity Card
BioBlitz activity card – I completed all the steps!

Here are some of the highlights from the day:

Pirate spider (Ero aphana)

We found two of these tiny but fascinating spiders. They are only 3 mm long, so easily overlooked, but looked amazing under our microscopes! They have four bumps on their abdomen and spiny, stripy legs. Previously Ero aphana was a rare species confined to heathlands on the south coast, but is spreading north and can now be found in gardens.

This spider is a specialist hunter of other spiders. It will pick at strands of another spiders’ web to get their attention, when the spider runs out the pirate spider bites them and quickly retreats to a safe distance while their venom kills their prey.

Photograph of Ero aphana pirate spider
Photo by Michael Hohner, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Landhoppers (Arcitalitrus dorrieni)

Landhoppers are also known as woodhoppers or lawn shrimp. They are shrimp-like crustaceans which live on land. Originally from eastern Australia, they were first found in the UK in the Isles of Scilly in 1924 but can now be found in many coastal and urban areas around the UK, including the Natural History Museum Wildlife Garden.

Landhoppers have their bodies flattened from side-to-side and are dark and shiny in colour, and they can jump. When dead, they change colour to pink, like cooked prawns do. Look for them under logs or in leaf litter any time of the year, and if you find them send your record to the Landhopper Recording Scheme.

Photograph of a landhopper,
Photo by Dluogs, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Ladybirds

Did you know that there are 46 different ladybirds in the UK? However only 26 of these are easily identifiable as ladybirds, the others are tiny and without bright colours or spots. Many spend the winter hibernating as adults, including the two species we found at the BioBlitz.

Kidney-spot Ladybird (Chilocorus renipustulatus)

The kidney-spot ladybird is small (4-5 mm long) and black with two red spots. It prefers to live in trees, where it feeds on scale insects.

Photograph of kidney-spot ladybird, Chilocorus_renipustulatus
Photo by Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

14-spot ladybird (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata)

The 14-spot ladybird is a similar size to the kidney-spot ladybird but is yellow and black in colour, it can be found in most habitats and feeds on aphids, scale, and other insects.

Photograph of four 14-spot ladybirds, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata
Public domain photo

Through the UK Ladybird Survey, citizen scientists have helped map ladybird species and track the spread of new species including the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) and bryony ladybird (Epilachna argus).

You could search for, identify and record ladybirds in your own garden or local park with the help of the European Ladybirds App, available for Android and iOS devices.

Thanks to everyone who helped organise the BioBlitz and took part. Keep an eye on the BioBlitz website and join us for the next one!

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