(Fox header photo credit to Martin Green)

Did you know that exercising outdoors can burn over 20% more calories than indoors? We’re not all made for jogging, but cycling or a good walk are great, or you could try outdoor yoga or pilates – all ways to get the blood pumping, boost your energy levels and improve your mood – why not start by checking out some of the walks and routes around the Forest.

At this time of year young foxes venture out from the family home to find their own territories and the mating season begins (running through to February), so you might hear them being more vocal. Also bats are piling on the pounds ready for hibernation – there are 12 recorded species of bats in Bedfordshire, including Brandt’s, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s, Whiskered, Common, Soprano and Nathusius Pipistrelles, Noctule, Serotine, Leisler’s, Brown long eared and Barbastelle (source Bedfordshire Bat Group.)

But where do all the bugs go?

When I think about autumn and wildlife, migrating birds and hibernating mammals come to mind, but what about bugs – what happens to them over autumn and winter? Here’s info on what happens to some of them…

One bug that hibernates is the ladybird. As a cold-blooded insect they need external heat to stay alive, so as the temperature drops in late autumn and aphids, their main food source, disappear, ladybirds will hibernate. They often gather in groups, sometimes thousands, to see the winter through, preferring sheltered, moist spots where the temperature is likely to stay above freezing. Ladybirds emit a pheromone or scent, which deters predators, helps them to attract a mate, but also helps them communicate to others when they’ve found a suitable hibernation spot. While hibernating they live off their fat reserves, but still need to stay hydrated, so absorb moisture from around them. If their sleeping spot is too dry, they can die from dehydration.



Some species of butterfly also hibernate, or overwinter, including Comma, Brimstone, Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshell. The other 50+ UK species spend winter in other forms, either as an egg, caterpillar or pupa.

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly (photo credit Martin Green)

Peacocks, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells often overwinter in buildings, seeking out those that are dark and damp, so you might find them in sheds, garages or old disused buildings like pillboxes. The Red Admiral doesn’t become fully dormant in winter, but will ‘wake’ on cold, but sunny days, and take to flight. Central heating can be a problem for these butterflies, as it can confuse them and they may wake too early, thinking it’s spring. This is an issue as there is no nectar for them to feed on and they will die. If you find a butterfly in your house in winter, the best thing to do is to gently catch it and re-locate it to a damp, cold spot, where it will hopefully settle and re-enter a dormant state.

Peacock Butterfly Red Admiral Butterfly Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly (photo credit Don Morris), Red Admiral Butterfly and Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Most bumblebees and honeybees die in autumn/winter. In late summer the queen will lay eggs – and the next generation of queens and males are born. The new queens mate and build up their fat reserves by feeding on nectar and pollen, then hibernate underground (the males die off). As the temperature warms in spring, the queens emerge from hibernation to find a suitable nest site, where they’ll lay their eggs to produce female worker bees.

Wasps also follow the same pattern, with only the queens hibernating to survive the winter.

Honeybee White tailed bumblebee

Honeybee (photo credit Sam O’Dell) and White-tailed Bumblebee

Dragonflies and damselflies only live in their adult form for a few weeks during the summer. After mating, the females lay eggs in or near water, and these hatch into larvae or nymphs. The nymphs don’t have wings and remain in the water feeding voraciously, growing and moulting. The moulting process involves shedding their skin, up to 14 times. The nymphs climb out of the water for their final moult, from which they emerge as an adult dragonfly or damselfly.

Southern Hawker Dragonfly Red Veined Darter Dragonfly Small red-eyed Damselfly

Southern Hawker Dragonfly (photo credit Don Morris), Red Veined Darter Dragonfly (photo credit Brian Sawford) and Small Red-eyed Damselfly (photo credit Don Morris)

News from our sites

The ranger team have been busy clearing willow and hawthorn from islands in the Millennium Country Park Wetlands Nature Reserve. This is essential work because if these species are allowed to spread, scrub will encroach into the wetlands and we will lose our valuable reed cover, which is habitat for various species such as bearded tits and bitterns. Both of these species have been recorded on site in the past and our rangers do everything they can to encourage them to the Park. Tall trees also provide perch sites for birds of prey so we try to minimise their opportunities.

Some of the islands are accessible on foot when water levels are low enough, however some have deep ditches around them which have water in all year round. For those ones the team use the boat to span the width of the ditch and use it as a bridge.

Taking the boat to one of the Wetlands Nature Reserve islands

Ranger team taking the boat to one of the Wetlands Nature Reserve islands - all are socially distanced