The Friends of Alexandra Park have organised several walks where we looked for, and identified insects and other small creatures.  The first walk, in 2011, was mostly aimed at adults but most of the subsequent events have been family events.

Some pictures of Insects and other Invertebrates taken in the Park.

Family Bug Hunt: 12th August 

The threatened rain held off and four families enjoyed searching for bugs and butterflies. Two different species of butterfly were found small white and speckled wood as well a cricket and a grasshopper as well many true bugs including an immature green shieldbug. A large yellow underwing moth was caught together with many small spiders and mirid bugs. A couple of small ladybirds (22-spots) as well as three larger one (harlequins). A fullish list of what was found can be inspected here. 

Butterfly Walk: 29th July 

We had a good turnout – 14 people – and mostly good butterfly weather (sunny and windless), though it was breezy and cloudy at times. From the Gas Hut Dee led us along the Lower Road, spotting plenty of butterflies on the brambles, including gatekeepers and holly blues. We then went into the Anthill Meadow, at which point it clouded over a bit. In spite of this we saw a red admiral, a small copper, meadow browns and more gatekeepers. The ragwort and bramble were popular with all of them. Finally we went over to the fenced patch of creeping thistle on the Old Racecourse. There we saw small, large and green-veined whites (the latter pictured left by Tony Jakeman). There were many gatekeepers there too.  

Family Bug Hunt 2022 

Nice warm weather for Family Bug Hunt this year. Great to see lots of kids outside with nets waving......

Several butterflies where caught including Meadow Browns and a Common Blue. True bugs (insects with sucking mouthparts) also featured well with a couple of Sloe Bugs and a Leather Bug.

Roesel's Bush Crickets and Meadow Grasshopper were other insects found. Crickets have antenae longer than their bodies and grasshoppers antennae shorter than their bodies.

Sixteen spot and harlequin ladybirds were seen as well some small flies.

The biggest numbers found were spiders of all sizes with a crab spider where had been eating a honey bee and the star of the day, a Wasp Spider (pictured left).

All the insects were released back into the wild as close as possible to where they were found.

Link to a list of species seen on the day.

Butterfly Walk - July 2022

Butterflies like sunshine, and luckily we had lots of it. Starting in the Upper Main Meadow, our walk leaders Dee Cullen and Gerry Rawcliffe helped us to spot meadow browns and small or Essex skippers (the latter have antenna tips that are entirely black). 

In the Lower Main Meadow we saw a large skipper (more heavily marked than the other two) and then marbled whites, with their gliding flight. In the park there are large, small and green-veined whites, and we saw a large white, the least common of the three, in the Anthill Meadow. 

We also saw speckled woods, which like coming down onto brambles, and a six-spot burnet moth. We had to look up once we were at Cricket Scrub Corner, for the very small purple hairstreaks and whiteletter hairstreaks, as they like oaks and ashes/elms, respectively, so those of us with binoculars were at an advantage!" 

Family Bug Hunt 2021

Rebecca again led our Family Bug Hunt and inspired the children to search out their favourite invertebrates be it spiders or ladybirds. Among the finds were several species of ladybird, a ground beetle, gatekeeper butterfly, earwig, mirid bug, young green shield bug, crickets and grasshoppers as well as crab spiders. Some large moth caterpillars also drew admiration - a buff-tip and a white ermine.

All bugs captures were released afterwards.

 A few more images from the afternoon here.

Family Bug Hunt 2019 

After a nightmare journey from Essex, Rebecca and Dave arrived for our Family Bug Hunt... We had quite a bit of sunshine, but with a slight feel of Autumn in the air. The finds started with a disproportionate number of spiders, but then a few butterflies flitted by including Green-veined and Small Whites.

One group of children were particularly impressive as decided to use the ID sheets and work it out for themselves. (left)

What was found? A Roesel's bush cricket and a smart looking Meadow Grasshopper.

True bugs captured included Bishop's Mitre Bug and Ant Damsel Bug.

Beetles were represented by Earwigs, 7, 16 and 24 spot ladybirds.

Kids had brought in lots of stuff by the end and Rebecca was hard pressed to inspect them all, but as usual came with up good identifications. 

Probably the highlight of the afternoon was a female Wasp Spider.

All animals caught were released at the end of the afternoon.

More pictures from the afternoon here.

Here is a list of things found - will be updated as further information is available.

Talk: Everything, but the Ants 

The Friends regularly work in an area of the park that we call the Butterfly Meadow. Stephen gave a talk outlining the work taking place and focusing on the insect life that is present in the area.

Highlights included pointing out some of the more unusual butterflies that have been attracted to the area in the last couple of years including the Marbled White, Brown Argus (left) and Silver-washed Fritillary.

Flies, Bees, Crickets and Dragonflies have all been seen and pictures shown to illustrate them all.

The talk finished off with a look at the Beetles (chewing mouthparts) and Bugs (piercing mouthparts). The colourful Rose Chafer beetle was an attractive metallic green beetle, but to end the talk, we looked at the Parent Bugs (a type of shield bug) that live on the Alder Tree near the East end of the Butterfly Meadow. 

We followed the life cycle of the insect from the adults mating, the female protecting its eggs and the young and how the nymphs grow in stages into the adult form.

Talk: Plight of the Bumblebee, November 2018 

We enjoyed a fascinating insight into the life and importance of Bumblebees by Gill Perkins CEO of the Bumbleebee Conservation Trust.

We found out that although honey bees are important pollinators, bumblebees are vital as the only pollinators of tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries amongst others.

We were show a short video illustrating the unique method that the bumblebees have for extracting the pollen from certain plants that don't openly offer their pollen. This method is called buzz pollination. Want to have it explained? Check out this little video.

We had insight into how bumblebees generate enough lift from such small wings and a large body. The body contains large muscles and the wings rotate generating lift on both the up and down strokes. 

There are 24 or 25 species of bumblebee of which 6 are parasitic cuckoo bees so a manageable number to study..... 

The threats to the insects were also outlined with the 97% reduction in wild flower meadows since WW2 and the danger posed by neonicotinoids and other pesticides as well as the pests and diseases brought in via imported bumblebees (used for crop pollination).

An interesting Q and A followed with one answer being sugar solution (not honey) as a first aid drink for bumblebees looking a bit bedraggled.

Gill brought along an extensive amount of merchandise for the Friends to buy.... We purchased "Bumblebees, an introduction" and "What's that Bumblebee?"

What to help and join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust? Follow this link.

More pictures from the evening.

Family Bug Hunt, August 2018 

A rush of last minute bookings contributed to a very successful Bug Hunt. Large and Small White butterflies were found as well as three different species of ladybird; Harlequin, 16 spot and the 24 spot (pictured left).

Shieldbugs were also scooped up including Green Shieldbugs, Bishop's Mitre Shieldbugs and Dock Bugs.

Roesel's Bush Cricket and Common Field Grasshoppers were found in the grass.

Spiders of all sizes were found including a particularly smart Garden Spider.

Rebecca explained to us that Ichneumon Wasps are the more primitive forms with the social wasps evolving more recently.

Earwigs were also found and we were told that the females look after their young.

One attendee was not so interested in the finds and had to entertained in other ways.

What else was found? Red spider mites and caterpillars as well as some other beetles.

Family Bug Hunt, August 2017 

We welcomed Bex back to lead our Family Bug Hunt in August. 

Luckily summery, sunny weather was the order of the day. Youngsters and Oldsters were quite to grab nets and trays and set out see what beasties could be found. Mirid bugs and Harvestmen (spider relatives) were brought in a good quantity. 

On the ladybird front several Harlequin were found together with four or five 16 spots - this small species pictured. 

Ashy Mining Bee was admired as was a Grasshopper and several Earwigs. Butterflies eluded the nets, but Gatekeeper, Common Blue and some unidentified Whites were seen.

Probably one of the more impressive finds was a large Ichneumon Wasp.

More pictures from the day.

Family Bug Hunt 2016

A great group of families turned up on the hunt for bugs and beasties. On hand was Rebecca aided by Dave to help identify the finds. 

The weather was warm so plenty of butterflies were on the wing includingMeadow Browns (pic of caterpillar also seen), Gatekeepers and a pair of mating Large White were seen.

Lots of Mirid Bugs were spotted and Soldier Beetles covered the ragwort.

Seen also was 7 spot ladybird as well as the Harlequin - also seen a Harlequin larva.

Grasshoppers and crickets were seen in the grass - this is a Speckled Bush-Cricket. (pic on left shows participants holding it up)

Some things found were very small like this weevil only about 3mm long.

A list of some of the bugs seen:

Mirid bug (leptopterna  dolabrata) - female, plus other varieties of this bug.

Shield bug (carpocorus fuscipinis)

1st & 3rd instars of shield bug

Soldier beetle - lots

Thick legged beetle

Small Mayfly

Seven spot ladybird

Speckled bush cricket

Field grasshopper

Caterpillar of meadow brown butterfly

Meadow brown butterfly



Rare beetle (bledius furcatus)

Looking forward to next year.

All pictures from the day.

Butterfly Count and Insect Search, June 2016 

A small group of all ages met together on an overcast, but warm day to see what Butterflies we could count and what other insects we could see/identify.

The list of butterflies included Meadow Brown (pictured), Large Skipper, and probably a Small Skipper (could be Essex). 

We managed to identify five different moths; Yellow Shell, Silver Y Moth, Large Yellow Underwing, Heart and Dart and a caterpillar of the Six Burnet Moth.

We spotted Rosel's Bush Cricket and Speckled Bush Cricket as well as a Meadow Grasshopper.

Among the bees were Honey Bee, Common Carder Bee, Red Tailed Bumble Bee, Leaf Cutter and Vestal Cuckoo Bee.

Yellow Longhorn and Swollen Leg beetles were spotted in the the grass.

Several Meadow Plant Bugs were observed as well as vibrantly coloured Weevil (Phyllobius roboretanus or virideaeris)

We spotted Flesh flies - with the beautifully discriptive Genus name Sarcophaga - and one colourful fly spotted was the Pellucid Fly. (Volucella pellucens) - pictured

Ants were also seen, but not identified.

Also found was a Nursery Web Spider, but that is not an insect......... 

Pictures some of these finds here.

Family Bug Hunt, July 2015

It was a lovely sunny Saturday for our Family Bug Hunt. We found at least 3 types of ladybird, lots of 7-spots, a few 16-spots and a 24-spot and one small ladybird lava was spotted.

Top among the numbers found were soldier beetles in their striking orange colour. We also found a Rosel's Bush-Cricket and another grasshopper.

A ground beetle was captured and proceeded to eat a stint bug which looks a bit like mini grasshopper. Other intriguing finds were an immature Bishop's Mitre Shield Bug and a Mirid Bug.

We scoured the ragwort looking for the colourful cinnabar moth caterpillars and finally one was found.

Several types of butterfly were seen including skippers, whites and meadow browns. What else? Several types of spider including a Green Orb Web Spider.

The kids (and adults!) enjoyed the hunt a lot and the bugs were released back into the park. Rosel's Bush-Cricket and 7-spot ladybird pictures from another occasion. Pictures from the day. 

Family Bug Hunt, August 2014

We had a good turn out for our Family Bug Hunt on Saturday, 16th August. Sun and a bit of wind. We managed to find some grasshoppers and a common blue butterfly.

Among the highlights found were a green mosquito, a large number of cinnabar moth caterpillars, an ant lion (lacewing lava) and this juvenile Green Shield Bug.

Thanks to Bex assisted by Dave for providing the expert identifications.

Here is a list of what was found:

Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) - 2
22 Spot Ladybird (Psyllobora 22-punctata) - 5
Common froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) - 3
Lacewing larva (antlion relative) - 1 (picture)
Green Shield Bug nymph (Palomina presina) - 2 (picture)
Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) -1
Harpalus affinis - 1
Ladybird larvae - (10+)
Mirid Bug (Polymerus unifasciatus) - 1
Mirid Bug (Stenodema laevigatum) - 1
Ichneumon wasp (Coelichnewmon delirorus) - 1

Family Bug Hunt, August 2013

Over twenty adults and children turned up for a hunt for bugs in Alexandra Park on a sun-blessed Sunday in August, 2013.   

Rob Wallace kindly helped out as an expert identifier. He gave a quick briefing on how to use the sweep nets and where to search for invertebrates. 

Lots of butterflies were seen including small copper, small blue, meadow brown, large white and gatekeeper. Both kids and adults enthusiastically hunted in the grass and shook the trees for creepy crawlies. 

We found out about ladybird lifecycles and spotted many of them including 7 spot, 22 spot, harlequin and the best spot, an adonis ladybird. On the larger side, colourful buff-tip and cinnabar moth caterpillars were found and admired.

Bug Hunt, July 2012

We held our first Family Bug Hunt in July, 2012.

We  provided pots, nets and magnifying glasses, together with guidance of what to look for and how to identify it.

It was a fine warm day, and the event was attended by around 30 adults and children.

Thanks to Rob Wallace, who was our local 'expert', a fun time was had by all.

Insect Hunt, August 2011

An insect hunt took place in Alexandra Park on Sunday 14th August, 2011.

Tristan Bantock, a local entomologist, led a fascinating walk showing us some of the many insects species in the Park.

It ended up by going up the southern slope to see the fine specimen trees at the top of the hill, where the cafe was conveniently near for a closing cup of tea.

The Parent Bug (Elasmucha grisea) guarding its offspring, which was taken during our Insect walk in August, 2011, then Gatekeeper butterfly, lesser marsh grasshopper, and birch shield bug nymph