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National Insect Week, a great time to go bug hunting at the RSPB

Last modified: 19 June 2012

Green tiger beetle

The green tiger beetle can be found at The Blean, chasing down ants on the path in front of you.

June 25th to July 1st is National Insect Week, when the Royal Entomological Society encourages us to celebrate all that is great about British insects, and Kent’s RSPB nature reserves are a great place to go bug hunting.

The RSPB manages habitats for all nature because a healthy environment means a healthy population of birds and lots more wildlife exploring opportunities for curious humans too. The small creatures are just as easy to find, no less dramatic, and enormous fun.
RSPB warden Andy Daw said, “The variety of insect life is breathtaking, and you don’t even have to know what you are looking at to enjoy them, they can be colourful, delicate or outrageously shaped, looking like mini-spaceships. Usually they are busy sipping nectar or munching their way through the vegetation... or each other!”

Of the 13,400 species recorded on RSPB Reserves, more than half are insects. All the native British species of dragonflies, damselflies, cockroaches and earwigs can be found on RSPB reserves, as well as 77% of grasshopper and cricket species, 58% of beetles and 66% of butterflies and moths.

At RSPB Dungeness the short-haired bumblebee has been re-introduced, so the UK now has 26 native species, ten of those (and some of the most scare) can be found at RSPB Cliffe Pools - you’ll need a keen eye for the number, colour and sequence of their fluffy stripes and a notebook to check what you’ve found later.

Butterflies are now on the wing and particular rarities to seek-out are the heath fritillary at Blean Woods, and the white-letter and purple hairstreak at RSPB Northward Hill – so named for the short streamers on their wings.

Damselflies and dragonflies come in a wealth of colour and pattern, these winged insects emerge from an aquatic life in the pools on the wetland reserves. At the small end of the scale the blue-tailed damselfly is easily recognisable but always worth a closer look as their bodies vary in shades of green, blue and purple. At the large end of the scale, emperor dragonflies and southern hawkers can be found patrolling along footpaths performing aerobatics to catch other winged insects, they have extra, special eyes to keep an eye on the horizon. RSPB Cliffe Pools is home to the very rare southern and scarce emerald damselflies.

On the footpaths of Blean Woods look out for the green tiger beetle, this magnificent bug lives up to its name, dashing after ants and eating them voraciously, stand back and watch the action!  

There are many day-flying moths, the cinnabar and burnet moths have striking cerise markings that warn birds of their poisonous innards, but take a closer look at the night fliers with their amazing velvety patterns and, down at RSPB Northward Hill and  Blean Woods look out for female glow worms lighting the way for their mates.

Just about every plant you scrutinise will reveal some kind of bug at this time of year, so grab a magnifying glass and zoom in to a nature reserves this summer.