Answering minibeast questions with the help of Twitter

Each year I get sent questions about minibeasts from my sister’s class of four- and five-year-olds. You can see answers to a previous set of questions here (including the tricky existential issue of ‘why moths die’).

This time I thought I’d call on proper expertise by canvassing Twitter:

The questions were attached as a screenshot (with copious use of invertebrate emoji):


This resulted in a flurry of answers. As Sally-Ann Spence put it:

With Sydney Brannoch typifying the attitude of the invertebrate-loving community:

So, here are the questions and answers, with curated tweets and GIFs.

1. How do butterflies fly?

Butterflies squeeze and let go of their muscles to flap their wings. They move their wings in a ‘figure of eight’ pattern so that air swirls under them and helps lift them.

Answers from Twitter:

2. Why don’t slugs have shells?

Most slugs do have a shell, but it is very small and often hidden inside their bodies. Many slugs live underground and so a big shell would make it difficult to move around in the soil.

Answers from Twitter:

3. Why don’t worms go in [my] house?

Earthworms like dark, moist places so that they don’t dry out. Houses are too dry and tend to lack the leaf litter and soil that worms need to eat and live in.

Answers from Twitter (an amusing set of responses from Sarah):

4. How do crickets jump so high?

Crickets have big jumping legs that have powerful muscles attached. They can store a lot of energy in these muscles and release it all at once, making the cricket move a great distance very quickly.

Answers from Twitter:

5. Why is a caterpillar hairy?

Hairs can help protect caterpillars because they can break off and irritate predators. Hairs can also help caterpillars to sense the world around them (a bit like a cat’s whiskers).

Answers from Twitter:

6. Why do worms wriggle?

Earthworms live underground. Wriggling their bodies helps them to move through the soil and can also help make it harder for them to be captured by animals that might want to eat them.

7. Which is the strongest minibeast in the world?

Minibeasts are small but many are capable of lifting weight that is many times bigger than themselves. The strongest might be the taurus scarab beetle, which can pull weights that are over 1000 times its own bodyweight.

Answers from Twitter:

8. Are there any dangerous or poisonous minibeasts?

Some minibeasts can sting (like wasps) or ‘bite’ (like fleas) and others can carry illnesses (like mosquitoes that carry malaria). Also, some frogs are poisonous and some spiders have venomous bites. Don’t worry though, because we don’t have that many dangerous minibeasts in the UK.

Answers from Twitter:

9. Why do ladybirds have spots?

Ladybirds’ spots and their bright colours are a warning to predators that they don’t taste very nice.

Answers from Twitter:

10. Why do ladybirds fly?

Ladybirds are a type of beetle and many beetles can fly. Flying allows ladybirds to move long distances to a new area very quickly. There are many reasons to do this: when they’re running out of food, to escape from predators, when they need to find a mate, or when they need to find somewhere to stay safe over winter.


Thanks to everyone that helped out.

These types of questions can have many answers and translating them for a young audience can be tricky, as was pointed out in this tweet:

So if you have anything to add, then please leave a comment below.


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