18-24 June marks this year’s National Insect Week, organised by the Royal Entomological Society to help celebrate all things small that creep, crawl, buzz, flutter, fly, hop and jump! It has been going for a number of years and it’s worth checking out the website at www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk for events, information and resources. Here in the Tees Valley, a number of organisations are running family friendly events to mark this week, including bug hunts, pond dipping and crafts at RSPB Saltholme over both weekends. In addition, The River Tees Rediscovered projects Wings of the Tees, Coastal and Wading Birds and Honeypot and Education Spaces are all joining forces for a Wild Weekend of Bioblitzes on 16/17 June. Part of the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild campaign, experts and enthusiasts will be on hand to help people identify and record as many different species as possible at Bowesfield nature reserve and on the coast at Redcar. Activities will cover plants and animals but there will be plenty of opportunities to investigate our smaller residents including spider spotting, butterfly counting and pond exploration.
Insects are a vital part of our ecosystems, they provide food for a multitude of bird and animals species such as our summer visiting swifts, swallows and sand martins and also hedgehogs and foxes among many others. They recycle nutrients back in to the soil and pollinate our food crops and the wild harvest of berries and seeds. They may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is worth spending time getting to know them. Particularly memorable insect encounters during the course of River Tees Rediscovered have included finding the beautifully name golden-bloomed grey longhorn beetle at Portrack Marsh last summer, a really distinctive species whose grubs feed inside the stems of plants such as thistles. Its long stripy antennae and wonderful gold dusted appearance are very striking! We’ve also recorded dingy skipper butterflies along the Black Path section of the Teesdale Way in Redcar and Cleveland during a guided walk last May. The name really doesn’t do this lovely little butterfly justice and as we come to the end of its flying season, keep an eye out for it roosting on top of grass stems or laying its eggs on yellow flowered bird’s foot trefoil in areas with bare patches of ground for sunbathing. It has declined across the country and so it’s a real treat and privilege to still have it in the Tees Valley.