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Coming up on Unsprung

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Gavin Boyland Gavin Boyland | 19:51 UK time, Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Things that go bump in the night © Ed Whiting

We're having a busy week here in Unsprung corner (yes we've got our very own corner of the office which is steadily be overtaken by all your lovely letters, pictures and the like). We're lining up another packed show for you this Friday evening, stuffed full all the yummy stuff you've been sending in.

Joining Chris, Martin and Michaela will be Autumnwatch regular Nick 'Bug Boy' Baker. He'll be on hand with his wonderful collection of minibeasts that we share our homes with (so be warned we'll be featuring plenty of spiders... it is Halloween after all). If you've got any bug-related question for Nick then post them here.

So keep it all coming... Any questions you're dying to ask, whether it's specifically for Nick or any of the team, post them here. The video uploader is still live (Unsprung researcher Sam has even done a little video to talk you through how to use it). For any pictures you want to share, we've got our photo group (8,841 members and counting).

If you're on Facebook, we've got a page (a little confusingly called BBC Springwatch) which you can 'like'. It's a great place share your thoughts and experience of our great British wildlife with other fans of the show.

Lastly, we've made a little exclusive behind-the-scenes video that we'll be posting on the site this week, so keep an eye out for that.

We love hearing from you so please get involved.

Gavin Boyland is the Producer of Autumnwatch Unsprung


  • Comment number 1.

    It isn't a minibeast question, but...
    Do animals produce bogey like we do? And if they do, how do they get them out?

  • Comment number 2.

    Do insects hibernate for several months, and if so, how is it that they don't die of starvation or shrivel up without access to water? Surely, unlike mammals, they can't build a supply of fat?

  • Comment number 3.

    If you look out of a window through a latticed 'reed roller blind', your view is obviously impaired, however, if you bob up and down lika a JACK SNIPE your view is greatly improved!

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello i added a picture of a large catapillar on the flicker pictures and cannot find out what sort it is,it was taken near the sea in s e cornwall and is long as a adults finger can you help please

  • Comment number 5.

    I haven't seen alot of cocoons as I used to see years ago, from any sort of moth or butterfly. What's going on??Is it weather or just where I live ?? Brian. Cork. Ireland.

  • Comment number 6.

    I use a petrol driven single blade lawn mower which I believe uses a strong vacuum effect to collect the grass and presumably anything else which might be living there.
    I was thinking in combination with everyone else across the country doing the same thing, whether this might be contributing factor to the recent general decline in insect numbers. I would be interested in your opinions.
    (Not very exciting I know but what else is there to do as you go back and forth!) Thank you, Mark W London

  • Comment number 7.

    hi nick
    there were two big spiders in the bath one morning,when i got home from work in the evening there was just one,is it possible one got out or did it become lunch for the other? there was a patch of dusty mess under it when i removed it!
    thanks @cookielaughton & unarmadillo

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Nick - There have been loads and loads of those little moths around this year indoors (are they the common clothes moth?) - anyway if you happen to squash one or fish it out your cuppa as they seem to like drowning themselves in your drink, they just turn to dust and disappear rather than splattering like other insects, why do they do this?

  • Comment number 9.

    Answer to last week's Unsprung question about why blackbirds are appearing with black beaks - they are juvenile males in their first winter.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why are many people phobic about specific creatures e.g. Spiders, Snakes but rarely others that are equally as creepy or potentially harmful e.g. Woodlice, lizards, jellyfish Are the phobias similar in all countries? Do you think it is a learnt response or innate deep in our DNA? As a chronic arachnophobe ( but OK with daddy long legs or spiders under the size of a squash ball) I would be interested in the thinking on the science behind it. Just glancing at the picture on this page make me cringe. I have tried everything and am quite a logical person.

  • Comment number 11.

    skylarksue 2 I occasionally wake up hibernating butterflies in my garden shed.

  • Comment number 12.

    Will all British spiders only bite humans if provoked ? I have had 8 Steatoda nobilis spiders in my shed, house and old coal bunker this year. They have all either ran away or played dead when coming into contact with me.

  • Comment number 13.

    What happens to spiders during the British winter? For how long do they generally live; and is there a noticeable difference in the lifespan of different spider types? Similarly, do spiders have markedly different diets? Obviously, the tiniest "money" spiders can't tackle the bird etc diet of tarantulas but how varied are their diets otherwise? Thank you, TB.

  • Comment number 14.

    Do woodlice and the like ever venture into the light? Do they rush for dark places purely to hide from their predators? What sort of eyesight do they have? Thank you, TB.

  • Comment number 15.

    There is an old wives tale that we swallow 10 spiders a year while we sleep with our mouthes open - surely we would all be waking up in the night choking on spider legs given the size of an average house spider? Much as i am more than happy to share the dark corners of my home with a few spiders i would rather not have them as an impromptu midnight snack! Is there any truth at all in this or is it simply an old wives tale?

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi AW team,the bobbing bird theory as chris mentioned could be linked to focusing on its prey from different levels of view, eg dippers wagtails. owls bob there heads when focusing on prey aswell as side too side and 360 degree circlular motion.

    falcons also sit bobbing there heads when perched looking for prey,kestrels,hobby
    merlin ect,could this be linked somehow why bobbing is done.


  • Comment number 17.

    Will a house spider live outdoors when put out of the house, or will it be back inside before the door closes?

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi, can anyone tell me if spiders can spin webs continuously if they needed to e.g. if their webs kept getting damaged or broken down, or can they only spin say one web per 24 hour period? What is the average length of silk used per spider per web and is it always in proportion to the size of the spider? Also, why do they always seem to sit on their webs head down and on the same side of their webs all the time? Is it the equivalent of being right or left handed?!

  • Comment number 19.

    Hi we are getting some ladybirds in our home, should I leave them or remove them? I have heard that some let off a smell? Thanks.

  • Comment number 20.

    Can you explain (in simple terms if possible) what the insect nervous system is all about, as I'd read somewhere that some insects (or their larvae) seem to react to pain. Is this true?

  • Comment number 21.

    This is a question for Chris and Nick why are there so many zebra spiders in the uk at this time of year they are also known as jumping spiders they are 6-7 mm big

  • Comment number 22.

    nasic 21 As you don't want anyone else to answer...

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Nick, I love slugs and when out with my camera the other night, noticed that many appeared to have "passengers" on them, including some photographed in my photostream. I have noticed that millipedes also appear to be attracted to slugs, and seem to be "grooming" them. I wonder why they do this.

  • Comment number 24.

    To Nick (and Chris if he likes!),

    Here are a few lepidoptera related questions that some of our members and supporters have suggested that we ask you consider and explain to viewers on the show:

    1. How do butterfly scales get their colour?

    2. How do moths find their way in the dark?

    3. What happened to the Peacocks this year? And can you explain how the parasitoid Tachnid fly (Sturmia bella) is supressing our populations of Peacock and Small Tortoishell?

    4. Please can you explain how aberrations in butterflies occur and why it seems that the hot dry spring produced a significant number of them in the south of the Country this year?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Comment number 25.

    Do any insects have any defence mechanisms to allow them to escape from a spiders web once they've been caught, or is the Spiders web too effective?
    And also, why sometimes do larger spiders eat smaller spiders, are they being oppertunistic or is there a specific species that only eats other spiders?

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    How do compound eyes work? And what is the purpose of the simple eyes?

  • Comment number 28.

    Why are house spiders getting so big & aggressive.I was mowing my lawn the other day & I saw a huge spider which had the leg span of about the size of 1 & a half house bricks.I didnt fancy picking him up so I picked up a broom & tried pushing him away with the handle.He immediately turned on the broom & very,very aggressively curled his legs round the handle & sunk his fangs into the handle.I could see his fangs from where I was standing.I normally pick spiders up to place them elsewhere but I am so glad I left this one for the broom handle...

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi, I asked this question on Twitter but had no answer. I was wondering if it is normal for a Ladybird to eat other things than aphids, only me my 10 year old son and my parents went to a local nature reserve a few months ago and witnessed a ladybird eating a mosquito! The mos was still moving every now and then so quessing it was being eaten alive! Any information gratefully recieved. Lynn Hensby

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi, How long will a Stag Beetle lava live inside an old stump before it emerges as a fully fledged Beetle? And will they eventually eat all of the log? I have a old decaying log in my garden and often see Stag Beetles in the warmer months.

  • Comment number 31.

    Do we really have poisonous spiders breeding in south of england?!

  • Comment number 32.

    To Chris,
    I would like to add to the question from last week's unsprung, about whether birds sing for pleasure, with an unusual observation; on the 16th and 17th October at about 7am I heard what sounded like faint blackbird song. Each time it only lasted for about 5 mins. The first time there were also some blackbirds making alarm calls. I have never heard a blackbird singing in the autumn before, and I don't know why they would - they have no territories to defend at this time of the year. This makes me think it might be another bird imitating blackbird song, perhaps a starling? If it is a blackbird then could it be a juvenile practising its song, or could it be that the bird is singing for pleasure?

  • Comment number 33.

    Two chicken farms near us and too many flies are they caused by chicken poo or something more gross?

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Nick, can you comment on snails? I have found a small colony of dead snails stuck on the trunk of a hawthorn. You can see my photo on Flickr under "dead snails on hawthorn". They are definitely dead as I have pulled several off and poked about - the shells are empty. I would so love to know what has happened to them. Have they been eaten from the inside by a bug?

  • Comment number 35.

    After hearing on Autumnwatch that a fox will occasionally be allowed to sleep in a badger's den - I was amazed because I thought they were in competition. A few years ago I was walking across a winter field of stubble and right in the middle were the bodies of an adult fox and an adult badger - facing each other about 2 feet apart. I concluded they had fought to the death - is that likely?

  • Comment number 36.

    Hello, My Question is About Insects Species, How many Insects are there in the UK?

  • Comment number 37.

    There have been several large flies around this year. Where do they go in the winter and can they bite.

  • Comment number 38.

    I saw a grass snake in the Peak District today. What a fantastic surprise! I thought they would have gone into hibernation by now. How common is it to see them at this time of year and is it possible that you would see them or adders during the winter months?

  • Comment number 39.

    How can the giant huntsman spider still be considered the largest spider in the world, when underwater spiders around Antarctica have been discovered that are half a metre across?

  • Comment number 40.

    Why are some spiders are more hairy than others?

  • Comment number 41.

    Why are some spiders more hairy than others?

  • Comment number 42.

    How did spiders evolve? Did they evolve from a 6-legged ansestor? When did they first appear in the fossil record?

  • Comment number 43.

    Dear Nick

    I am desperate to know how spiders suspend their webs in the middle of a six or eight foot gap. We've seen film of webs being spun but never the start of the process. Please, please can you help?

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Nick, Is it true that garden spiders bite? also, is it true that jumping spiders don't spin web's and that this is the reason they jump (on prey) and how long do spiders live?

  • Comment number 45.

    Hello all,
    Regarding the subject of black beaked black birds in last week's show: Last winter, I was feeding up to thirteen blackbirds at a time. (I have woodland behind my house where I live in Pontypridd, South Wales.) They were queuing up for fruity pellets which I was putting out every couple of hours. They weren't particularly competitive either. Each bird looked different from the other and I soon got used to the different black bird visitors! Size was an obvious difference but the shade of black and albino /age (?) white patches varied too. Some of the females were speckled and others plain brown. Several of the males had black beaks. Fascinating! The garden was surrounded by a lovely "bop bop" sound. Last winter was, unusually, cold but I do hope to see some return. My most familiar lady blackbird has returned already for her daily nibbles. I hoped she'd be first in the queue! Lovely. Happy Autumn!! Josey. ps I have some footage which I will try to get my hubby to upload.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi there Nick! What sipder is this by the way: I took it in Sothern Spain... Many thanks for been a great inspiration!
    Rose aged 17
    (ps: Happy halloween!) :)

  • Comment number 47.

    My house is surrounded my hundreds of moths every night but where do they all live during the day?? theres so many of them :)

  • Comment number 48.

    Why are spiders and their webs more evident in gardens during the autumn?

  • Comment number 49.

    We have 6 chickens which have a large enclosure - we feed them the normal pellets plus scraps of grapes, cabbage etc. However, we notice quite often that the robins and the dunnocks eat the pellets that are put out for the chickens (in a tin under the coup) - will this do them any harm or will it make them produce more eggs (as the pellets should be good for egg production for the chickens?)

  • Comment number 50.

    Where do house spiders hibernate? I've never found one in my house after October!

  • Comment number 51.

    owllady19 i have a lovely lots of owls about where i live

  • Comment number 52.

    a. Peregrine
    b. Red deer
    c. otter (thanks Martin!!)

  • Comment number 53.

    answer to quiz A. Ostrich B. Deer. C. Fox

  • Comment number 54.

    Bryan from Birmingham says;

    a. tawny owl
    b. wild boar
    c. juvenile badger
    d. poodle

  • Comment number 55.

    Were are the eyes on a spider and a ladybird

    thank you

  • Comment number 56.

    why do spiders make webs in places where people walk through them!

  • Comment number 57.

    A: tawny owl
    B: wild boar
    C: Juvinile otter
    D: poodle

  • Comment number 58.

    Dear BugBoy - Do spiders' prey continue to feel throughout their ordeal or are their nervous systems shutdown in some way (hope I'm not being really dumb here ... not even sure about their nervous systems ...)? Thanks v much, TB et al.

  • Comment number 59.

    There were hundreds of ladybirds at Ashridge, Herts today. Why?

  • Comment number 60.

    PS - I think that really thin, poor old white, boney chap in the audience just behind Chris and co.has been waiting far, far, far too long to have his hopeful question answered - plse at least let him have some of those spooky snacks somebody!!

  • Comment number 61.

    Indirectly a mini-bugs question: I've just been watching, for umpteenth time, a blackbird wiping its slug to get rid of slime. Is this an instinctive or learnt behaviour?

  • Comment number 62.

    A fledgling greenfinch which still has some down feathers has just been in my garden.Is this unusual for early November?

  • Comment number 63.

    I am Victoria Anne Nienhuis.
    I have been living in Holland for 8 years now, but never stopped watching autumn and springwatch. I am a great fan of your show.
    I would like to send in a true story about an encounter I had with a huge spider to share with all the watchers.I hope to be on the next show......

    Great big spider on the ceiling,
    I have a rather uncomfortable feeling.
    That in the middle of the night,
    you ll drop on my head and give me a fright.
    And that you see would never do,
    I d rather see you in a zoo !
    Dont get me wrong, I dont want you dead,
    Just not "glaring" above my head!
    Sorry if I "gently" pushed you away...
    Just out of my sight, not dead, I pray.
    But in the morning, to get me back,
    you crouched against the wall, behind my red rucksack.
    I took you outside, my point to prove,
    now your "on camera",that was a good move.
    On the fern I carefully put you to rest.
    Then you looked at me and said: Goodbye pest....

    The spider I wrote this storie about was 3 cm (head and body) without the leggs.....
    He was BIG!!!

    Regards, Victoria Anne

  • Comment number 64.

    why is chris wearing a brownie uniform? lol x

  • Comment number 65.

    hi nick what has happened to the starlings this year, i have not seen any in our area and yet the rowan tree at the bottom of out garden is usually full of them. i live in the aldridge area of walsall,west midlands.

  • Comment number 66.

    Why do ladybirds congregate in the corner of my windows - only bathroom and 1 bedroom. Their wings also turn completely black???!!! I'm confused

  • Comment number 67.

    To Chris, (or anyone who might know the answer!)

    I live under one of the main approach routes to Edinburgh Airport when the wind is from the west (the prevailing wind). Also during the migration periods flocks of geese fly over as well. I am fascinated watching a large skein when they seem to use their collective intelligence as to which way to fly making slight changes which they seem to agree on, and all that happens very orderly and without breaking the steady speed of their flight. But on three occasions now over the last few years I have observed a skein flying along quite normally and then panic seems to set in - they dissolve into disarray, their wing-flap-rate increases, the noise increases, and initially their is no agreement at all on which direction to go but they head off at roughly 90 degrees from their original pattern. Then, by the time they are disappearing, a plane appears and flies exactly where they were in the opposite direction that they had been flying in. Had they not moved there might have been a sort of 'head on collision'. So my question is do geese have some kind of long range sensors that has alerted them to the approaching plane, because when they first paniced and flew off to the side the plane would still have been quite a few miles away. Or is it extremely good eyesight, as the planes have usually switched their landing lights on by that time.

  • Comment number 68.

    Mystery noises - anyone know what this could be? We live in Stanhope in Weardale and walk our dog by the river, at the moment often in the dark. There is a famous local beauty spot where stepping stones cross the river. I almost fell in the other ight as I was most of the way across and paused to check where the dog had got to. Suddenly heard a large something splashing right next to me in the river - thought for a moment it was the dog but saw he was already across. The thing splashed around me several times but I could not see what it was- it was a very eerie feeling. When I got back home I found that my partner had had exactly the same experience a couple of nights before. We have both also heard loud splashes in the river, sounding like someone has thrown a very big stone in. And we have heard splashing a few times in the same place since - my partner thinks he saw something moving in the water that looked a bit like a large fin.
    Ideas so far - once i saw a very large eel in the river by the stones - would an eel splash about like this? or could it be otters? I would have thought they would be more secretive and shy? Or is it salmon heading upstream? If so, any idea why they always seem to choose the same route between these particular stones when they have the whole width of the river to swim in? Or is it a monster??? Whatever it is it is not bothered by the dog or by us. (So not a sleeping duck we have disturbed for instance)

  • Comment number 69.

    The number of passage and migratory birds here in Caithness over the last couple of weeks has been enormous.
    Huge flocks of fieldfares,redwings,northen black birds, greylags, pink feet, whooper swans, little stints, little ringed plovers, purple plovers, long tailed tits also some woodcock around, no waxwings as yet!
    Also Brent and Barnacle Geese a couple of weeks back.
    Strangest sighting was a Hoopoe 3 weeks ago in the village, the 2nd one this year.

  • Comment number 70.

    Re the Stanhope splashes (no. 68) -I carried on investigatin and have been asking local experts - the mystery splashers are in fact salmon. They are getting pretty desparate apparently as the river is very low and they need to get upstream to the redds where they lay the eggs. Often they die - and I found 3 large dead salmon in the river yesterday. Easily big enough to have made some mightly splashing. There are still lots of them at it - interestingly not in the daylight but reliably after dark at the ford you can hear and sometimes see them too.

  • Comment number 71.

    we live in Solihull near the canal, nothing unusual there except it is inland not far from Birmingham come winter time we have seagulls making a racket in the middle of the night just as it were daylight. Nothing there to feed them or anything of this nature so why is this? Last year it was a regular occurance not necessarily every night but quite often.


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