Creepy Crawlies

Public summary: 

Insects, worms, bugs and more: what lives in your garden? Get up close and personal and see for yourself!

Looking at a variety of small creatures that you can find in your garden
Useful information
Kit List: 

Large clear plastic box with holes in lid
Small magnifying viewing boxes
Creepy crawlies - collected either by lifting up rocks etc or by using traps made by sinking jars into the ground and covering with loose twigs etc. and leaving overnight.
Dissection microscope (potentially)

Packing Away: 

Return the creepy crawlies to a suitable habitat


We will collect these hopefully from a variety of habitats. It's interesting to discuss how the insects are adapted/camouflaged to their environments, and what the larvae might become.

Some examples of things that might be collected are:

There are around a quarter of a million times more insects in the UK than humans, and more than a million different kinds of insects discovered on Earth (of these >20,000 species live in the UK). Beetles are the biggest group within the insects. (Note: All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs)

All insects have 6 legs and their bodies are divided into three main parts; the head, thorax & abdomen.

The skeleton of an insect is on the outside of its body (and is called an 'exoskeleton').

Insects breathe through little holes in their abdomen called spiracles (they don't have lungs). [for older kids] This way of breathing puts a size limit on the insects - they rely on diffussion (movement of particles from areas where there are lots to where there are fewer). When there was a higher concentration/more oxygen in the air (in the Permian), insects could be bigger - with wingspans as wide as your armspan! (As the greater difference in oxygen concentrations (between the air outside and within the insect) allows diffusion over a longer distance).

Examples of insects that you might collect are:

A few interesting facts are:
- Froghoppers are best known for their nymph stage, which produces a cover of frothy plant sap, "cuckoo spit" which hides the nymph from predators, insulates them against the cold, UV radiation and keeps them moist.
- Crickets and grasshoppers both have jumping hind legs

- Crustaceans with a rigid, segmented shell-like exoskeleton
- 14 jointed limbs
- Some woodlice can roll up into a sphere as a defensive mechanism
- Live in moist places (e.g. under rocks and logs) because they breathe through gills
- They eat mostly dead plants (decomposers)
- As woodlice grow they shed their exoskeleton in two stages, with the back half first followed a few days later by the front

- Arthropods with 8 legs, they are not insects! (related to crabs!)
- They don't have antennae but instead use hairs on their body and legs to sense objects around them
- Spiders are carnivorous but have small mouths so in order to eat they inject poison into their victims which digests them
- Some spiders spin webs to catch their food - flies get trapped in the sticky strands of the web (made from silk produced by glands at the back of the spider's body).

Risk Assessment
Date risk assesment last checked: 
Mon, 23/12/2019
Risk assesment checked by: 
Polly Hooton
Date risk assesment double checked: 
Mon, 20/01/2020
Risk assesment double-checked by: 
Beatrix Huissoon
Risk Assessment: 

Insects and other creepy crawlies (found by demonstrators) in clear plastic display tanks. Observing their behaviour, e.g. in moist and dry conditions, and looking at them under a low magnification microscope.

Hazard Risk Affected Person(s) Likelihood Severity Overall Mitigation Likelihood Severity Overall
Insect/soil Stomach upsets if a child ingests an insect, or soil. Tetanus risk if people with deep cuts touch soil. All 3 4 12 Watch very young children to ensure they do not put soil or insects in their mouths. Ensure that any child who has touched soil or insects washes hands. Do not allow people with cuts to handle soil - demonstrator to wear a plaster if they have a cut.
In case of contact, tell them to wash out the cut and reassure that there will probably not be a problem, but to contact GP if any symptoms ensue.
2 3 6
Electrical equipment Dissection microscope, electrical equipment - hot and risk of electrocution if faulty or wet. All 3 4 12 Switch off microscope between uses if it starts to become hot. Don't set up near taps or wet experiments.
Switch off equipment in the event of an electrical problem, clear area, call first aider. If child burns themselves, keep affected area under running cold water for 10 mins, call a first aider. Read attached electrical RA.
2 3 6
Loose insects Panic, especially if an insect gets loose. All 3 2 6 Ensure the insects are all kept in close range, and that children do not open tray lids without supervision. If an insect gets loose, clear the area, get adults to help keep their children under control, retrieve insects (call for help if necessary). In case of injury call first aider. 2 2 4
Insect bites Itching or allergic reaction if someone is bitten by an insect. All 3 4 12 Don't assign demonstrators with an allergy to insect bites to this experiment. Encourage children to be gentle when handling insects. Do not let very young children handle the insects themselves.
If bitten, reassure that there probably won't be a problem, pull out any visible sting (get first aider), wash under a cold tap to soothe irritation.
2 3 6
This experiment contains mains electrical parts, see separate risk assessment.
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