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Life In The Undergrowth

Featuring: Video Video

David Attenborough pushes back the foliage and finds a world of invertebrates.

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David Attenborough reveals the amazing stories behind the tiny lives of invertebrates, exploring their incredible miniature world with ground-breaking camerawork and technology.

The series was originally broadcast on BBC One in November 2005; it is regularly repeated on Eden and Yesterday.

Episode guides and clips

Intimate Relations

Ever since they came onto land, the tiny creatures of the undergrowth have been forming alliances and partnerships with each other and with plants.

As David Attenborough says in his opening, many of these intimate relations are of a complexity that blows the mind. And while some of these relationships clearly benefit both partners, others most certainly do not.

Take the bot fly - a bruiser in the fly world. It uses smaller house flies as unwitting couriers to carry its eggs to cows where they hatch and bore into the cow's flesh. Or the tiny fairy wasp - 0.25mm long - that flies under water and lays its eggs inside water beetle eggs.

In the programme's final sequence we see how the caterpillar of the blue butterfly sneaks its way into an ants' nest by mimicking the smell of the ants' young. There it is protected and fed for almost two years. But a recently discovered wasp has an uncanny knack for pinpointing nests with caterpillars in. It breaks into the ants' nest using a collection of chemical tricks that any spy would love to get his hands on. One of these chemicals forces the ants to attack each other, giving the wasp time to lay its own egg into the caterpillar's body. When the wasp leaves and the nest returns to normal the ants feed the caterpillar as if nothing has happened, but when it pupates what comes out? Not a butterfly but a wasp. Mind-blowing indeed!

Episodes in this series

Episode Description
Invasion Of The Land Creatures leave the sea to colonise the land Read more
Taking To The Air Out the water - now they take to the skies Read more
The Silk Spinners The power of the web-slingers Read more
Intimate Relations Cole Porter wasn't wrong when he said bees do it. Read more
Supersocieties The bugs that work together... Read more