A bug’s life

Friday 12 July 2013


Children and families are being invited to learn about the bugs and mini-beasts that live among us, with a series of weekend garden events organised by the University of St Andrews’ School of Biology.

Over the course of four weekends, beginning Saturday 13 July 2013, would-be beastie hunters are being given the opportunity to team up with leading biologists to learn hunting techniques including beating, pitfall traps and pootering. Visitors will then be able to take their samples into the University’s Bell Pettigrew Museum where, with help from demonstrators, they can use microscopes, taxonomic guides and the museum itself to identify and learn more about the species they have collected.

BugsThis hands-on learning experience aims to reveal the vital world hidden beneath the urban leaf-litter and vegetation that surrounds us. Young scientists will learn, for example:

  • How spiders and other arachnids help control a number of pest species such as cockroaches or aphids.
  • How we rely on bees and other insects to pollinate fruits and crop plants.
  • And the importance of springtails and many other arthropods vital to recycling decomposing matter and making nutrients available to plants and other consumers.

Despite their beneficial roles, insects are seldom considered in conservation decisions in the urban environment and emphasis is typically placed on more ‘charismatic’ bird and mammal populations. However closer observation will reveal the dramatic and dynamic micro-world of garden life in which we all coexist.

Dr Iain Matthews of the School of Biology said:

“The activity will reinforce the important ecological message that even in urban environments we still rely on ecosystem services from various species.”

The event will run for 5 hours (11am – 4 pm) on each Saturday and Sunday. Anyone interested should head along to Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History, Bute Building, St Andrews.

The activities are free to all and funded by the British Ecological Society.


The events will run from 11am – 4pm on 13th & 14th July, 20th & 21st July, 27th& 28th July, and 3rd & 4th August 2013.

The Gardenlife activity weekends are part of an on-going project in the School of Biology – Gardenlife: a study of gardens as a reservoir for arthropod biodiversity. For more details go to: http://biology.st-andrews.ac.uk/gardenlife/

Further information on the work of the British Ecological Society can be found at: http://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/

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