Mission: Invertebrate is a Royal Parks Project funded by People’s Postcode Lottery. This project focuses on the plight of invertebrates across the Royal Parks and beyond. Invertebrates are often the underdog of conservation, and not usually given a look in when in competition with much ‘cuter’ and more ‘cuddly’ animals. We want people to understand and discover how truly amazing invertebrates are, and how we can help them, at a time when they need us the most.

The project has several strands, including a family programme, where we drove a giant snail caravan around the whole of London delivering exciting and engaging family days for all ages - funnily enough a giant snail attracted quite a bit of attention! School sessions allowed students to dig deep into the incredible and intricate invertebrate world, focussing on the core roles of invertebrates in pollination, recycling and food webs!  Working with park managers across the eight royal parks, we are on a mission to make our green spaces more invertebrate friendly. Projects included planting over 4900m2 of pollinator-friendly wildflowers, and welcoming in some woolly lawnmowers for our first ever sheep grazing trial in The Green Park! Specialist surveys across the parks were commissioned, spotting over 900 different invertebrate species all living in the Royal Parks, including an exciting first UK sighting of a rather beautiful bug called, Oxycarenus modestus.

Last but definitely not least we had our citizen science programme. One of the projects focussed on the relationship between the hedgehogs of The Regents Park and their main food source – invertebrates. We are lucky to have the last remaining breeding population of hedgehogs in central London, but the hedgehogs have been found to preferentially forage in certain areas of the park, and are rarely seen in other areas, despite the potential suitability of hedgehog habitat. There may be a number of underlying reasons for this distribution of the hedgehog population, one of which may be lack of suitable food in certain areas.

With a merry band of volunteers, in May & September 2017 we surveyed eight sites, coring for worms and using pit fall traps to catch other ground invertebrates. In each month we found more juvenile worms than adults, and overall more worms were found in September than May, when the lack of rainfall made the ground incredibly hard. We surveyed three different types of park environment (short grass, long grass and mulched shrubbery), but found no significant habitat preference by the earthworms. Our pitfall traps identified 19 different categories of invertebrates, with the zoo and zoo car park having the greatest biodiversity. This is also one of the hedgehogs’ favourite spots, so we’re looking to see what we can do to entice more invertebrates into other areas of the park so that the hedgehogs have more appealing dinner options

Excitingly we are now starting our second year of funding, and hope to continue inspiring minds and improving parks habitats for invertebrates, whilst pushing invertebrate conservation forwards.  The Mission: Invertebrate team are busy planning for the coming year with many exciting projects already in the pipeline, including some wonderfully wiggly earthworm surveys! Keep your eyes peeled for exciting opportunities to get involved!

Bryony Cross

Mission: Invertebrate Project Officer