Love them or hate them, creepy crawlies are everywhere! Slugs and snails; beetles and bees; worms and woodlice; flatworms and flies; grasshoppers and greenfly – these tiny creatures all have a vital role to play in the environment. They quietly work away, breaking down wood and leaves, churning up soil, burying dung, pollinating plants, disposing of dead bodies and eating each other. They provide a vital food source for many of our birds and mammals, too.
Creepy crawlies are known as invertebrates, which are animals without backbones, and they make up the great majority of life on Earth. There are 40,000 species in Britain alone and many millions of species on our planet, from the Arctic to the Andes and from Slapton to the Sahara. Many of the invertebrates are insects – we have 27,000 species of insect in Britain.
Creepy crawlies are often more primitive than animals with backbones such as birds, mammals and fish but they are no less amazing. Many of our insects, in particular, undergo metamorphosis – a complete change in appearance. For instance, butterflies change from soft puffy caterpillars to spectacular colourful flying creatures.
How you can help creepy crawlies
- Provide log piles, rock piles or upturned flower pots for creepy crawlies to hide.
- Compost heaps are full of worms and woodlice – you can compost all organic waste, from peelings to sawdust. This saves lots of rubbish going to landfill so you are helping the general environment, too! Don’t put cooked food in compost heaps as it attracts vermin such as rats.
- Dead leaves are broken down by springtails, woodlice and worms. In turn, these are eaten by spiders, centipedes and ground beetles. So don’t burn your leaves, put them in a pile somewhere out of the way.
- Provide homes for ladybirds and lacewings to hibernate (mini-bird houses or hollow sticks tied in a bundle).
- Don’t use pesticides and slug pellets – natural predators can handle pests like greenfly and slugs so don’t upset the natural balance.
- Long grass is good for grasshoppers and many other insects.
- Avoid composts with built-in pesticides.
- Encourage healthy habitats from long grass to woodland and ponds.
- Build a pond. Snails, water beetles, dragonflies, water fleas and flatworms will love it.
- Provide plenty of wild or garden flowering plants in the neighbourhood or in gardens to provide insects with nectar and pollen.