OU on the BBC: Life In The Undergrowth - Fly Guides
Following on straight after the main Life In The Undergrowth programmes, Fly On The Wall exposes some of the secrets of the production process. Here, we give a sneak preview of the secrets that will be revealed in each of the ten-minute specials:
Every year on the river Koros in Hungary, millions of beautiful mayflies shed their larval skins and take to the air in their nuptial flights. It is one of the greatest invertebrate spectacles in the world. We join the Life In The Undergrowth team as they travel to film it. But on arrival things are not going as planned.
It’s already late May and there’s not a mayfly to be seen. But as we find out from local expert Joszef, it’s the weather that is to blame, and it’s getting worse.
Meanwhile, back in ‘sunny’ England, things are going rather better. David Attenborough is discovering how the latest high-speed video cameras are helping to reveal the minute details of insect flight.
When David arrives in Hungary to join the mayfly crew, though the weather has improved, the hatch still hasn’t kicked off. With just one more day to go before they have to leave, the weather comes just right and the team are able to film one of the best mayfly emergences in living memory.
There’s no getting away from it, some people just hate spiders. But if you can overcome your fear you will see that they are some of the most remarkable creatures of the undergrowth.
From a former arachnophobe turned spider expert in Australia to a cameraman who spent 300 hours in his studio immersing himself in the world of the tiny wolf spider, David Attenborough and the team take us on a journey into the fascinating world of these eight-legged marvels.
Through a remote probe camera we see into a trapdoor spider’s burrow, we watch the ingenious but nocturnal Bolas spider under the eerie cast of red lights and David confronts his own fears in the form of a large, hairy and highly venomous bird-eating spider.
With technology and the guidance of the experts, we find out that spiders are not so different from us really, just creatures trying to solve life’s problems. It’s the extraordinary ways that they have found to solve these problems that make them so infinitely fascinating and enchanting.
In the very long time that invertebrates have been on Earth they have evolved the most remarkable relationships, not only amongst themselves but with the other organisms on the planet. But for Life in the Undergrowth, getting close enough to observe and record these intimate behaviours without disturbing them needed a very special approach.
We join Cameraman Martin Dohrn and sound recordist Chris Watson as they team up with the leading scientists in their field from Peru to Somerset and for the first time solve the mysteries of how tiny ants are poisoning trees and how caterpillars are in turn deceiving ants with sound.
From giant bees to marauding ant armies and termites in their fortress homes, in this episode we enter the world of the social insects.
Understanding what is going on in the nests and hives of these super societies, let alone filming them, wasn’t ever going to be easy. We follow the team as they rig an ingenious jungle elevator to send David Attenborough up for a close encounter with hundreds of thousands of giant bees, and then team up with an industrial engineer who is finding out exactly what goes on inside the impenetrable chimneys and tunnels of a termite mound - with the help of a few hundred gallons of plaster of Paris.
Throughout the series Life in the Undergrowth we seen the most extraordinary creatures leading the most remarkable lives right under our noses. But probably the most remarkable thing is that they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Invertebrates are the most numerous animals on the planet but they are still the least known. Thankfully as we’ve seen in Fly on the Wall behind the scenes there are people out there every day pushing the boundaries of our knowledge. One such person is Scientist and beetle expert, Frank Hovore who is deep in the Amazon Jungle on the trail of the world’s largest insect, The Titan beetle.
As frank starts to build up a picture of this enigmatic giant, we get an intimate and privileged look at the most startling array of other insects that he manages to coax out of the Jungle with nothing but a bright light and a white sheet. We also find out that not only is virtually nothing known about the world’s largest beetle but that of all the other ten million species of invertebrates on the planet, an incredible nine million are yet to be discovered.
First broadcast: Wednesday 23 Nov 2005 on BBC ONE
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Tuesday, 18th October 2005
Last updated on: Wednesday, 9th November 2005
- Body text - Creative-Commons: The Open University
- Image 'David Attenborough Titanus giganteus - one of the world's largest insects' - Copyrighted: BBC
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