The nights are drawing in and Halloween is approaching, but enjoying this spooky celebration doesn't have to be just about eating sweets and scaring your friends.
Why not use this time of year to learn more about the creepier, crawlier creatures in your home, garden or local park? You could host a nature-themed Halloween party for your friends and family.
You might even discover that bats, bugs and slugs aren't as scary as you think.
Spiders in your home
Have you spotted eight-legged lodgers appearing in your home at this time of year? Find out more about the different species.
Bats in flight
You probably won't see any bats turning into Dracula – even on Halloween. But with this guide, you will be able to identify some of the most common species in UK skies.
Common creepy crawlies
Which bugs can you find in your garden, school grounds or local park this Halloween?
Discover more about the creatures fluttering around your lights when it grows dark.
OPAL Halloween events
Imperial Fringe: Your number's up, Imperial College London, 31 October, 5pm-8pm
In a world of ever-increasing information, how do we make sense of big data? Join OPAL and a host of other imperial researchers this Halloween as we demonstrate how the devil in the detail affects us all.
From leaves to lichen via bats, bugs and slugs, OPAL will put data – and some slimier things – in your hands as we explore the numbers behind citizen science.
This drop-in event is free and open to all.
Homepage images of bats in flight by Jared Kelly on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Find sites with bird activity, identify birds and record what is found. The data generated can be used to produce graphs after the visit.
After your visit, your pupils can draw and research a bird they spotted using the second part of the Countryside Code Wales' Birds of a Feather pupil worksheet.
Discuss with your class the different habitats woodland birds can be found in, how human activity might affect these habitats and what humans can do to protect birds in the countryside.
Use simplified versions of the OPAL Bugs Count survey to look at the invertebrates found in different habitats. The data generated can be used for follow-up activities such as producing graphs.
Everything you need for this activity is in the downloadable pack.
If you would like to do some more bug hunting, download our additional minibeasts resources (ZIP, 471KB) for further instructions on catching invertebrates.
Focus on the feeding relationships between plants and animals with card matching activities and more active games.
Before your visit, we recommend teaching pupils about the animals and plants in the type of environment you will visit, and what the animals eat.
Pupils should also have some experience of the concept of food chains and be able to explain to each other what they mean. They need to have an understanding of the terms 'producer' and 'consumer'.
Focus on the creatures that live in ponds and what they can tell you about the health of the pond. Activities are best carried out between spring and autumn when creatures are easier to find.
Health and safety advice: ensure that the trays are put at least two metres from the water's edge. Ideally the children should spend more time looking at what they have found than dipping. Emphasise to the class that water can be dangerous, no matter how shallow it is.
Download our worksheet of activities to complete before and after your pond dipping (Word, 262KB).
Soil and earthworms
Use simplified versions of the OPAL soil and earthworm survey, learning how to find and classify worms.
Back in the classroom, try our painting with soil activity (PDF, 362KB) and research natural artists such as Andy Goldsworthy to get inspiration for your work.
Give your hand-to-eye coordination a workout with our Earthworm Frenzy game.
Have we found the answer to a Species Quest question?
Yes! Lots of you took part in the Species Quest, sending us photographs of six species over the web and via your smartphones. We received more than 800 photographs from across the country in the first year of the survey.
Experts checked every one of your photographs and you have helped to map species distribution on the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
For one Species Quest bug, the Tree Bumblebee, we asked you to help find out how far it has spread.
Previous Tree Bumblebee sightings
Your Tree Bumblebee sightings. Can you see the most northerly record?
Your results will help the Bees, Wasps, and Ants Recording Society to track the spread of this recent-colonist species more than 250 miles from where it was first recorded in Wiltshire in 2001.
First record of the Tree Bumblebee in the UK in 2001
Which microhabitats are species most frequently found in?
We asked you to explore your local area for the microhabitats that bugs use for survival, food and shelter. You recorded what could be seen in three different environments:
- soft ground surfaces such as soil, fallen leaves and short grass
- human-made hard surfaces such as buildings, paving and plant pots
- plants such as wild flowers, shrubs and trees
Scientists have investigated your findings and below are the results for two Species Quest bugs, the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and the Tree Bumblebee.
Which species has almost equal numbers across the three microhabitat groups?
These bees were found three times more often on hard surfaces than Small Tortoiseshells. This could be because this bumblebee species commonly nests above ground in roof cavities and bird boxes.
See how successfully using human environments affects their distribution in the UK on our bumblebee map.
These butterflies were found over two and a half times more often on plants than on hard surfaces.
This could be because the butterfly commonly basks, creates territories, feeds, lays eggs and hibernates in vegetation. This demonstrates the importance of maintaining green spaces where we live.
How many bugs were counted in urban areas?
We invited you to go on a Species Quest and keep your eyes peeled for six key invertebrates. You spotted nearly 9,000 of them while doing your Bugs Count surveys.
One of the things we wanted to find out was how many species were found in very densely populated places such as cities and towns compared to less populated areas such as villages and hamlets. Can you notice any differences?
Size of bug represents the average number of
individuals found in each environment
Nearly four times more small Tortoiseshell butterflies were found in rural areas than in urban areas.
Although their breeding habitats are often associated with human environments, these butterflies may be doing better in less populated places because there are more nettles, which the larvae feed on, and nectar sources such as bramble and thistle for the adults.
See the microhabitats they were found in most often.
Almost equal numbers of Tree Bumblebees were found in urban areas and rural areas.
Perhaps these species do well in urban environments is becuase they can use the structure and warmth of buildings for nesting and feed on flowering plants and trees in allotments and gardens.
See the microhabitats they were found in most often.
All Species Quest bugs were found in both rural and urban settlements suggesting that both environments contain microhabitats to support them.
But overall, the average number was higher in less densely populated areas than in cities and towns. This may be down to limited living and feeding resources in human-dominated environments - one reason why it is important to protect and enhance green spaces in urban areas.
Which bugs top the charts?
We invited you to explore your local area, hunt for invertebrates and send us your results.
Your challenge was to hunt for as many bugs as possible in 15 minutes on soft ground surfaces, man-made hard surfaces and plants.
Can you see which type of bug was the most common and what types of environment they were found in most?
More than two-thirds of the True Bugs were found in the plant challenge.
Many species, including shieldbugs and aphids, feed on plants using their piercing straw-like mouthparts to puncture vegetation and suck up sap.
Ants ants ants! These were by far the most common type of bug found.
This is perhaps not surprising as their colonies typically contain thousands of individuals.
Impact of urbanisation
If you are interested in how urbanisation affects certain invertebrates, check out the bugs in urban areas results.
You have been incredibly active exploring the bugs in your local area.
We challenged you to investigate the incredible variety of invertebrates in your built environment. In the first year of the survey, you sent us more than 5,000 sets of results and counted more than 800,000 bugs.
Scientists at the Natural History Museum have been busy processing and analysing your data. Here's a taste of what has been discovered.
Explore the findings
How common are different groups of bugs?
Find out which bug was spotted the most and which environments they were found in.
How well do species fare in urban areas?
See which bugs do well in towns and cities.
Which microhabitats are species most frequently found in?
Find out if the Tree Bumblebee or the Small Tortoiseshell does better on man-made hard surfaces.
Where can the Tree Bumblebee be found in the UK?
See how far this species has spread since it was first recorded in Wiltshire in 2001.
How have your surveys helped our scientists?
Your records have helped us to understand which bugs were found most often, whether man-made environments have had an effect on bug numbers and where species can be found in the UK.
Thank you for all your hard work and while we continue to study your data, keep exploring nature!
The Bugs Count app has been updated and is now available to download for free from the iTunes App store (iPhone) or Google Play store (Android phones).
This mobile phone app lets you take part in real scientific research on the go. If you spot one of our six Species Quest invertebrates, such as the Green Shieldbug or Two-spot Ladybird, simply take a picture using your phone and instantly submit it to our scientists.
The phone automatically collects the date and location, so you’ll be contributing a highly accurate scientific record. Didn’t identify the species correctly? Don't worry, our scientists will verify the species from the photo. Even if it isn't the one we are looking for, the record will be passed to the relevant recording scheme.
The app also includes a simple invertebrate ID guide, including lots of facts and identification tips.
Download the app for free and get bug-hunting today!
Experiencing problems with the app?
Let us know and we’ll do our best to address issues in future updates. Contact us.
Enjoy a mobile guide to the bug world and contribute to valuable research
The Bugs Count app is now available for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android users.
From shieldbugs and beetles to hoverflies and bumblebees, the diverse world of invertebrates is now at your fingertips. Discover interesting facts, identification tips and stunning photographs of bugs from London’s Natural History Museum.
You can also help OPAL scientists with valuable research by looking for the six Species Quest bugs. If you find one, you can use the app to take and submit a photo directly from your phone. Your observation will appear instantly on our Species Quest map.
Learn more about common groups of bugs, including interesting facts and ID tips. What exactly is the difference between a grasshopper and a cricket?
Contribute to scientific research by submitting your photos of the six Species Quest bugs.
Explore stunning images of UK bugs photographed by the Natural History Museum.
The app can be used on its own or as part of the OPAL Bugs Count survey.
Download the app for free
You can download this free app through the App Store or Google Play on your mobile phone. Search for 'OPAL bugs', or use the links below.
Help and support
Experiencing problems or display issues with the Bugs Count app?
Let us know what's wrong and the phone you are using, and we'll try to correct issues in future updates. We appreciate your help in improving the app.
Get in touch using our contact us form.
Take part in the Bugs Count survey
Join in a timed challenge to find and identify as many bugs as you can. You can use the Bugs Count app to help you.
Is the Tree Bumblebee flourishing in urban areas? How far north has the Green Shieldbug spread?
By letting us know if you find one of these six species, you'll contribute to important invertebrate research. You can submit your sighting as part of the Bugs Count survey, or separately, using our Species Quest form.
Please include a photo so that your record can be added to national distribution maps.
Select one of the Species Quest invertebrates below to learn more about them