FROM slimy slugs to lovely ladybirds, a new £500,000 project aims to shed light on the unsung stars lurking in the undergrowth.

Cold-blooded and Spineless will see The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership bring invertebrates to the fore through research, education and monitoring.

A £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund is being invested in the five-year project, which will be officially launched with a bio-hunt at Harehope Quarry, near Frosterley in Weardale, on Friday, March 20, at 2pm.

Invertebrates include insects, molluscs, arachnids, crustaceans and myriapods and make up 96 per cent of all animals on the planet.

These much-maligned creatures play a big part in keeping the Earth’s ecosystem healthy, by improving soil productivity, pollinating plants and helping to recycle organic waste.

They can also be vital indicators of the climate and water quality.

Samantha Tranter, Cold-blooded and Spineless officer, said: “These small but perfectly formed creatures are definitely misunderstood. Lots of people squirm at the thought of a beetle, or panic if a moth gets too close, but they shouldn’t.

“There’s over 24,000 species of insect in the British Isles and some of them, such as the iridescent bloody-nosed beetle or the spectacularly pink elephant hawk moth are the best looking creatures I’ve ever encountered.”

She is encouraging people to attend the bio-hunt and help count the range of creatures emerging in the North Pennines in spring.

The event, hosted by partnership chairman Councillor Eddie Tomlinson, is open to nature lovers of all ages and will continue until dusk to observe invertebrates such as moths which appear in the evening.

Backed by television naturalist Nick Baker and the conservation charity, Buglife, Cold-blooded and Spineless is the successor to WildWatch, a project which encouraged people to record all kinds of wildlife in the North Pennines.

Ms Tranter said: “We want as many people to get involved as possible. We’ll be running identification courses, asking for volunteers to part in surveys and field work and getting into local schools to educate the next generation about why they should never squirm when they see a worm.”

To find out more about the project, bio-hunt and how to can get involved, contact Ms Tranter on 01388 528801 or