It’s BIAZA’s Big Bug Bonanza week, so to kick things off we’ve been monitoring bugs!
You might be asking yourself, how on earth do you monitor bugs? Well, it’s actually quite an intricate process, and one that’s really important for us to understand how nature is getting on.
In the video below you can see the process of sweeping! Using big nets Dr Christopher Williams, Applied Entomologist at Liverpool John Moores University and undergraduate Scott use sweeping motions to gather insects across a large area, in order to get a snapshot of the life living in the area.
But why are we monitoring the bugs?
Most of life on earth is made up of bugs, or as we call them, invertebrates meaning they have no backbone! They are a crucial part of the web of life and so knowing more about them means we can understand a little more about how the wider natural world works.
You might think that there are loads of bugs around, but in fact our native insects are currently suffering an extinction crisis! Without bugs the whole ecosystem wouldn’t work.
We are monitoring bugs at Knowsley Safari at the moment as part of a research project on bats. Bats feed on bugs, so the bugs we have here on site affect the bats we have here on site.
Where do we do this?
This time we’ve been sweeping in a few areas across the safari, from open fields behind Wolf Country, to wooded areas along the safari drive. It’s interesting to look at these different areas to see what life they’re hosting. It’s also useful to come back to the same areas to compare results. Changes could be caused by lots of things – variation in weather, development in the area or change of use of the area.
We are also doing the same surveys at Delamere Forest. There aren’t as many animals there as there are here at Knowsley Safari, so we don’t expect there to be as many bugs, but we will have to wait and see for the results!
What do we look for?
We’re counting the species and amount of bugs caught in the nets. We also look at plant height, density, basic species mix, and even vegetation temperature. This involves pointing a laser thermometer at all of the plant life and see what temperature it is. We also take general temperature, record the humidity, wind direction and wind speed, cloud cover and make a note of general weather.
The insects we collect are taken back to the lab at Liverpool John Moores University. Here they can be properly identified. This is always very worthwhile because you never know what weird and wonderful species you might find!
To find out more about how we monitor our native species check out our blog. Or book onto our Woodland Bat Walk now to discover the safari after sunset and the native life that brings our woodlands to life.