The invertebrates at Paxton Pits

The invertebrates at Paxton Pits are often overlooked, but there are plenty to see and hear, and many are spectacular. Watch out for the dragonflies and damselflies, mining bees, mayflies and huge range butterflies and moths that grace the skies during spring and summer.

Dragonflies and Damselflies


One of the most conspicuous types of insect on the Reserve, it’s hard to miss the whirring flight of dragonflies as you walk around, or the delicate flutter of banded demoiselles. Some species are found close to the river, but many can be seen around the edges of the pits. The Meadow Trail and the Ouse Valley Way are the best places to see them, from May to August. 21 species occur regularly, with two others – variable damselfly and red-veined darter – also recorded. In July 2020 Paxton Pits was designated as a Dragonfly Hotspot by the British Dragonfly Society thanks to the abundance of species.

An introduction to Paxton Pits Nature Reserve and its dragonfly and damselfly residents

Mining Bees

Mining bees are one of the largest groups of solitary bees. They generally prefer to build nests in sandy soil, so Paxton Pits is well suited. They are normally quite small, and you can best find them by looking for mounds of soil resembling worm casts in a bank of earth. If you look at the humps next to the Viewing Platform by Heronry South Lake during April to August, you stand a good chance of seeing them.


Small skipper butterfly by Peter Hagger

Twenty-seven species of butterfly have been recorded around Paxton Pits. Two species to particularly look out for are marbled white (annual since 1998) and purple hairstreak (best seen over the oak trees along the Haul Road). Volunteers survey the butterflies at Paxton Pits every month through the spring and summer, contributing to the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.


Not all moths fly at night, and some are just as colourful as butterflies and fluttering around during the day. An increasing number of wildlife enthusiasts are becoming interested in moths, and several organise moth-trapping sessions at Paxton Pits during the summer, some of which are open to the public. 530 species have been recorded at the Reserve.



The spider list for the reserve stands at 148 species, though there are doubtless more to be found, since so few people are looking. One of the most spectacular, the wasp spider, is a recent coloniser, and its range appears to be expanding each year.


Crickets and Grasshoppers

Many of these insects can be found around the reserve, including relatively recent colonisers such as the short-winged and the long-winged coneheads. Head to the Meadow to hear Roesel’s, dark and speckled bush-crickets, alongside lesser marsh grasshoppers.