Accessibility

Autumn Minibeasts

When the weather gets colder, Jock knows that his Minibeast pals will be getting ready for winter.

They have different ideas about what to do.

Information and Activities

Minibeasts in Autumn

Many Minibeasts either hibernate or spend winter as larvae or pupae hiding in dead wood, piles of logs, in leaf litter and compost heaps for shelter. Larva and pupa are two stages found in insects during their life cycle. To understand more about larvae and pupae read Metamorphosis.

 

Several insects create special winter homes for themselves within the leaves or stems of trees and other plants. These winter shelters are collectively called galls, and galls may appear on oak leaves.

Some galls are made by fungus and a good examples are “witches broom” which can be seen clearly in the autumn on birch trees. The fungus causes the tree to produce multiple stems so they look like brooms

Witches Broom Story
Witches Broom Fungus

Autumn Butterflies

Most butterflies spend winter as caterpillars, but the brimstone, comma, peacock , small tortoiseshell and red admiral hibernate as adults. The small tortoiseshell and peacock often hibernate in our houses! They will find a quiet place and settle down, only when we turn the heating on they tend to wake up thinking its spring and there will be lots of flowers with juicy nectar for them.

How to help! The best way to help it, is to find a cool dry spot. Gently put it into a cardboard box and let it calm down for a while, then leave it in a suitable place like your shed or garage.

 

You can read loads more about butterflies at Butterfly Conservation web site.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Hibernation

 

Most of the insects with wings die off in the autumn leaving their eggs to survive till spring, so they’re replaced by a completely new generation.

But some hibernate!

Ladybirds will find a sheltered place, like under loose bark on a dead tree, or even in cracks around window frames.

They will huddle together in large groups to help their chances of getting through winter, sometimes thousands in a group. No social distancing for them! 

Learn more by reading Where Do Ladybirds Go In The Winter?

Why not give these little guys a helping hand to get through the cold months ahead by building them a cosy ladybird lodge. This link to the Natural History Museum can show you how, and where’s best to locate it, as well as loads of information all about Jock’s favourite beetle:

Also read How To Make A Bug Hotel: A Ladybird Lodge.

Autumn Wasps

The life cycle of a wasp colony begins in early spring with the new queen wasp, and it ends with her death in winter.

During her life she may have laid up to 300 eggs a day. Towards the end of summer she produces eggs that develop into new queens and fertile male wasps. As the weather cools the existing queen reaches the end of her life and the wasps will start to die off. By late autumn/winter the whole colony dies.

The new queens leave the nest and are fertilised by male wasps before finding a place to hibernate over winter. They won’t all make it through the winter, due to the cold and predators like spiders. Those that make it will find a place to build a nest and the whole cycle starts again.

Wasps Eating Berries On An Autumn Day
Jock o' Bennachie

Jock Says: Wasps feed on sweet things like nectar in flowers and in fruit. They need lots of insects which they feed to their young. They are only active in the warmer months when there’s lots of food around. In autumn they can be pests as their search for sweet food can take them into houses and they are often quite drowsy and angry. Be careful!

Autumn Bees

Different kinds of bees do different things in autumn and winter. For example, bumble bees hibernate, honey bees don’t.

  Bumble Bees don't keep their colonies going over winter. The last brood of the summer colony will contain a number of queens. Each of these will mate and find a safe nesting place to spend the winter, like a small hole in the ground or somewhere protected, just big enough for her. She hibernates there over winter but the rest of the colony dies.

When Jock passes a mouse’s hole in the woods he always wonders if a bumble queen has zonked in there.

Have a look at this clever bumblebee queen making her winter home in this video.

Bumblebee Excavating A Hibernation Hole

Here’s lots of information about bees in winter Where Do Bees Go In The Winter? And Other Insects’ Winter Behaviour from the Woodland Trsut.

Honey Bees live through the whole winter, keeping the nest safe and warm. They eat and work all through the winter. Autumn is very busy for them as they have to make enough honey to see them through winter. Honey bees head to the hive when the temperature drops. They gather in an inside area of the hive and form a winter cluster around their queen, huddling together. The cluster can be the size of a football!

They flutter their wings and shiver, keeping the inside temperature of the hive warm. The queen stays in the middle, but the worker bees move round from the outside to the inside of the cluster, making sure no-one is too cold.

Bee keepers have to make sure their bees have enough honey over winter to have enough energy to shiver.

Take a look at this great video about how honey bees have a winter group hug!

What Do Honeybees Do In The Winter?
Bee House

Autumn Spiders

Autumn is spider season. It’s the best time to see spider’s webs outdoors. Autumn dew and mists make them easy to spot. If there’s no dew you can spray a fine mist of water to make the details of the web stand out . It won’t  harm the spider or the web.  But make sure you use a clean bottle with no traces of chemicals.

Spiders tend to be fully grown by autumn and they’re on the hunt for a mate, so we are more likely to see them. In fact this is the time we are likely to have lots of them in our houses-nice warm dry places to look for a mate!

Watch this epic autumn house spider adventure from Autumnwatch! Will our spider survive?

Learn more by watching BBC's An Epic House Spider Adventure.

Many lay their eggs in autumn in a silk sac usually hidden in a web, and stick them to a surface, or the female carries them. They produce lots of egg sacs as most won’t survive winter. Once the spiderlings hatch they spend the winter in their egg sacs to keep warm.

Some spiders can be found trying to hibernate in piles of rocks or leaves. Others can be found in warm places like garages, sheds or attics where they can be active and prey on hibernating insects.

Here’s more about spiders and their webs Spider webs: not just for Halloween.

Garden snails usually hibernate over winter.

Wiggly earthworms love autumn as it’s dark and moist. They’re busy munching all the great stuff to eat-the fallen leaves and debris. But in late autumn when it gets cold, down they go into the soil to get away from frost.

Jock o' Bennachie

Jock Says: It’s not surprising that with all these autumnal changes happening to minibeasts, creatures that eat them like birds, frogs, toads and bats have to change what they eat, or hibernate.

Spider Webs: Not Just For Hallowee
Natural History Museum Spider Webs: Not Just For Halloween

Also See

About Autumn

About Autumn

Autumn starts in September, when Jock 'o Bennachie notices that daylight gets shorter, and it gets colder and wetter.
Birds in Autumn

Birds in Autumn

Learn about migration and the many birds you may spot this Autumn.
Autumn Feeding Birds

Feeding Birds in Autumn

Give your birds a helping hand by feeding them, especially in autumn and winter.
Autumn Fruits, Berries and Seeds

Autumn Fruits

Learn more about the Autumn fruits and seeds and learn how to play "real" conkers!
Minibeasts

Autumn Minibeasts

Learn more about what Minibeasts do in the Autumn and how the handle the colder conditions.
Autumn Activities

Autumn Activities

Browse our collection of Autumn activities as well as one from across the web.

Also see our Spring Programme 2021, Winter Programme 2020, Autumn Programme 2020 and Summer Programme 2020 information, and don't forget to enter our Competition.

If you have enjoyed these activities please share them with your friends and family.