A bug is always an insect but an insect is not always a bug, although all are mini beasts, and only some are creepy crawlies, which give many the heebie-jeebies!

To give them their proper classifications, insects are six legged critters with usually 1 or 2 pairs of wings, so a butterfly comfortably fits into this category.  A bug is an insect with a mouth like a straw, called a stylet and they use their stylet to suck sap or even blood, which would include aphids and bedbugs. Insects have been on the earth for longer than bugs, but when both are around the 300-million-year mark, why split caterpillar hairs?

Minibeasts are small invertebrates (which means they have no spine) and include spiders, ants, butterflies and more. This term covers most of the small animals you’d imagine are a bug or an insect. Creepy crawlies are simply those that make your own spine shiver, whereas critters are any living animal.

 Horse flies most certainly feed on blood but are misnamed as they prey on any mammal rather than just horses and it’s only the female that bites as she needs the energy to lay her eggs. The reason she hurts so much is because she uses her saw-like jaw parts to bite in a scissor type motion, rather than just piercing the skin as a mosquito does. The males are generally purely pollen collectors. Horse flies are most active in humid conditions, which is why they are often found near rivers and lakes. The good news is that, once they have taken a year to reach maturity, they then only live for a few days, or less if they bite you and you splat them!

Having trees around water helps to create humidity and gives us an even greater range of minibeasts; a single oak tree can be its own nature reserve with around 500 species of insect living on it.  This is one reason native species are so important to us.

Other minibeasts found near water include caddisflies, mayflies and midges. Some of our waters, such as Burrator Reservoir, have fly fishing with stocked trout and good anglers will “match the hatch” by using the right simulated fly for each time of year to replicate when that species of insect hatches. You may have seen daddy longlegs suddenly appear in August each year, and that’s when anglers will use their replica “daddy” flies to tempt the fish to eat them. The more realistic the fly and the way the angler manipulates it, the more chance they’ll catch their dinner.

In the evenings near to dusk, you may see fish jumping out of the water, coming for the insects that skim above the surface. Fish aren’t their only predators as we also have many species of bats around our waters.  Daubenton’s bats are dark on top and pale underneath so they match the water from above and the sky from underneath. They skim back and forward across the water and can be seen just below the weir at Lopwell Dam, as well as many other locations. We have around 17 species of bat in the UK, with the occasional visitor popping by, and all are protected by law.  Their faeces give you a clue as to which species they belong to, with the small pipistrelle poo containing midges whereas the larger noctule will eat moths and beetles.

Insects, bugs, minibeasts, critters and creepy crawlies are all around us and are an invaluable part of our ecosystem. The older among us can easily see how climate change has affected their populations, if you consider how many you used to have to clean off your car windscreen 20 years ago, compared to how few today. By building bug hotels and not paving and decking every square inch of our gardens, we may yet reverse this trend.  But you can keep the horse flies.