Written by Nicky Hodges, Stoke Park volunteer and member of Bristol Naturalists’ Society. All images taken by Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk

Invertebrates are numerous and varied. These are all the creatures that don’t have a backbone (mammals, birds and other larger creatures do have a backbone). Insects are the biggest group of invertebrates, but there are lots of others, like spiders and worms.

Enthusiasts from Bristol Naturalist Society visited Stoke Park in late May 2022 to see what insects and other invertebrates are thriving in the varied habitats of Stoke Park. We were on the lookout for beetles that live in dead wood, dragonflies hunting around the ponds and pollinating insects, such as bees, flies, beetles, butterflies and wasps.

Holly blue butterfly resting on a leaf with its wings folded
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk
Beautiful iridescent demoiselle damselfly resting on a green leaf
Beautiful iridescent demoiselle damselfly, by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk

Maico Weites, a Bristol-based professional entomologist, led the visit. Dylan Peters, a young local entomologist, took all the great photos illustrating this blog. Others in the group had varied levels of knowledge, including several amateurs keen to learn more about the creatures we spotted.

Why look at invertebrates?

A plentiful supply of invertebrates is important as a protein-rich source of food for other creatures to thrive in Stoke Park: Nesting birds feeding hungry chicks, bats, moles, badgers, foxes, grass snakes, slow worms amongst others. They also do a variety of other useful ecosystem jobs: worms aerate and enrich the soil, specialist beetles and millipedes break down dead wood, wasps and ladybirds provide pest control services. They can be fascinating to observe – from damselflies delicately flitting about the ponds to orb spiders creating nests in grass and butterflies basking and fluttering about. Pollinating insects buzzing, crawling and flying between flowers enable plants to develop the fruits, seeds and nuts which will either grow into new plants or be eaten by people and animals.

Water ladybird
Water Ladybird (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata), by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk

What did we do?

We walked a circular route that took us through flowering meadows, ancient woodland, around Duchess Pond and the wet flush nearby. In the grassland and along field edges we used nets to ‘sweep’ creatures in the long grass up, carefully transferring them to open trays or lidded pots to take a quick look at them close-up before letting them go again. Some we simply observed ‘in the wild’, maybe taking a photo before they flew or hopped off.

What did we see?

We recorded 55 species. You can access a full species list with common and scientific names at the bottom of this post.

Cricket-bat orbweaver spider
Cricket-bat Orbweaver (Mangora acalypha) by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk
Common malachite beetle
Common malachite beetle, by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk

Up in the meadows and hedgelines, there were plenty of flowers out, attracting pollinating insects, including bees, butterflies and pollinating beetles as well as grasshoppers and spiders.

Around Duchess Pond, we saw water ladybirds, two species of damselflies, a holly blue butterfly, spiders and various beetles as well as crickets and grasshoppers in the grass.

What can you do?

I hope this has inspired you to look and listen out for the many smaller creatures in Stoke Park. The main ‘trick’ is simply to slow down and to stop and observe from time to time on your walk, being attentive to what is around you. Lots of insects are active in spring and summer. In autumn some dragonflies, butterflies, ladybirds and spiders will be about. Try turning over a stone to see centipedes, beetles or woodlouse. Through the winter you may see buff-tailed bumblebees, hoverflies and spiders. RSPB, Field Studies Council, Butterfly Conservation, and other wildlife charities produce useful ID resources.

Avon Wildlife Trust suggests various actions to support wildlife in your garden or locally

Get involved

There are now official butterfly and reptile transects in place, to monitor the amount, diversity and changes in species within Stoke Park. To find out more and get involved, sign up to volunteer at Stoke Park

Find out more about Bristol Naturalists’ Society

Long-winged conehead bush-cricket
Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus fuscus) by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk
Blue-tailed damselfly resting on a leaf
Blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) by kind permission of Dylan Peters, wildbristol.uk

Full species list

Araneae (spiders)
Mangora acalyphaCricket Bat Spider
Isopoda (woodlice)
Armadillidium vulgarePill Woodlouse
Oniscus asellusShiny Woodlouse
Platyarthrus hoffmannseggiiAnt Woodlouse
Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)
Coenagrion puellaAzure Damselfly
Ischnura elegansBlue-tailed Damselfly
Libellula depressaBroad-bodied Chaser
Orthoptera (grasshoppers and bush-crickets)
Pholidoptera griseoapteraDark Bush-cricket
Conocephalus sp.Conehead sp.
Hemiptera (true bugs)
Liocoris tripustulatusA Mirid bug
Leptopterna dolabrataA Mirid bug
Rhopalus subrufusA Rhopalid bug
Coreus marginatusDock Bug
Stenocranus minutusA planthopper
Lepidoptera (Butterflies and moths)
Pararge aegeriaSpeckled Wood
Polyommatus icarusCommon Blue
Celastrina argiolusHolly Blue
Tyria jacobaeaeCinnabar
Rivula sericealisStraw Dot
Hymenoptera (Bees, ants, and wasps)
Apis melliferaHoneybee
Bombus lapidariusRed-tailed Bumblebee
Bombus pascuorumCommon Carder Bee
Bombus pratorumEarly Bumblebee
Lasius flavusYellow Meadow Ant
Lasius nigerSmall Black Ant
Diptera (true flies)
Empis tessellataAn Empid fly
Leptogaster cylindricaStriped Slender Robberfly
Limnia unguicornisA snail-killing fly
Chloromyia formosaBroad Centurion
Scathophaga stercorariaYellow Dung Fly
Chrysotoxum cautumLarge Spearhorn
Episyrphus balteatusMarmalade Hoverfly
Pollenia sp.A cluster fly
Coleoptera (beetles)
Oxystoma subulatumAn Apionid weevil
Oxystoma pomonaeAn Apionid weevil
Protapion apricansAn Apionid weevil
Protapion ononidisAn Apionid weevil
Ceutorhynchus pallidactylusA true weevil
Mononychus punctumalbumIris Weevil
Rhinoncus pericarpiusA true weevil
Rhinoncus perpendicularisA true weevil
Phyllobius roboretanusA true weevil
Mecinus pascuorumA true weevil
Sitona lineatusPea-leaf Weevil
Cantharis rusticaA soldier beetle
Malachius bipustulatusMalachite Beetle
Oedemera nobilisThick-legged Flower Beetle
Cassida vibexA tortoise beetle
Donacia marginataA leaf beetle
Adalia decempunctata10-spot Ladybird
Anisosticta novemdecimpunctataWater Ladybird
Harmonia axyridisHarlequin Ladybird
Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata24-spot Ladybird
Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata16-spot Ladybird
Trichosirocalus troglodytesA true weevil
Species List
Field trip information: Bristol Naturalists’ Society Stoke Park field trip 2022.05.28
Field meeting leader: Maico Weites