As much is going on below ground as above. Imagine taking a tree
and shaking it, collecting everything that falls out. Then try and make sense of each of the creatures and their relationships. That is is the problem we face when we have collected our little soil friends. How do we know what they do and how they relate when we cant see them moving around. Instead we have a pile of dead creatures. Finding way to explore this dilema is the fascination of this area of world. And there is much to be discovered. And there must be many ways to do so. Trees and soil animals probably co-evolved over millions of years. Looking at that relationship helps us work out the conundrums going on below our feet.
Most of the creatures are small - just beyond our eye sight. They are like specs. They have to move round either by burrowing or using pores and some other creatures tunnels. In terms of total weight or biomass, worms equal all the mesofauna together; it's just there are lots more of the latter smaller creatures....
What are these birds after? Worms, ? Larva? Ground Beetles. These beetles feed on smaller creatures liek the springtaills, larva, by vomiting on them and sucking in the digest.
Starling (worms eye view.jpg) opening up hole in soil, looking for insect larvae (Video)
Starting at the top. You see birds like blackbirds, robins and starlings pecking at the ground. They eat worms and beetles and insect larvae.
See Birds Eye View Having a healthy soil, rich in little creature, brings these birds in. So the presence of birds is a good sign.
On the surface you see Worms, Ground Beetles, spiders, ants all running around.
Active non-burrowing worms consume decaying plant residues on the soil surface, They are like the ones in wormeries – specifically red manure earthworms, belonging to a group called epigeic.
Rove beetle.jpg From soil sample in decaying tree leaves. this is a (Rove beetles) (More)
Ground beetles run round rotting wood and in compost heaps, you see this Velvet Ground Beetle
or this Nebria brevicollis and (European) Rhinoceros beetle
Click to see Rhinocerus Beetle beetling bout. Rhinocerus beetle at work These all roam over the soil surface looking for quite large prey - slugs & snails, cricket nymphs, insect larvae and isopods like woodlice, and even centipedes. Having lots of ground beetles around is a good indicator of healthy soil. They need lots of other creatures to live. From Royal Entomological Society "As the name suggests, many ground beetles spend their time on the ground and few can fly. The fusion of their wing cases (elytra) acts as protecting armour. Both larvae and adults are carnivorous and often specialise in eating slugs and snails, as well as eating a range of carrion. Depending on the ground beetle species, they will also attack aphids and other pest insects. Many ground beetles eat by vomiting on their prey and waiting for their digestive enzymes to make their food more fluid and easier to eat. By encouraging them into your garden you can start on the road to a natural method of pest control. Many ground beetles are nocturnal and need some form of shade during the day. Provide them with shelter such as a log pile, leaf litter or just some large stones...See 'Beetles' for more
whereascentipedes are carnivores, crawling through worm holes looking for smaller creatures like ants..
From Fundamental of Soil Ecology Coleman, Crossley & Hendrix.
Ants in turn feed on oribatid mites grazing. More about these mites below...
Meet our first real small soil animals
You can just about see the larger springtails on the surface..springing.
There are three main groups.
If they look like bunny rabbits, they are
HOW THESE CREATURES FIT WIDER SOIL FOOD WEB