UK's largest insect department opens doors

24 June 2008

Visitors to the Natural History Museum this week have the chance to explore some fantastic creepy crawlies and speak to scientists when the Department of Entomology opens its doors on Thursday for National Insect Week.

A spectacular Museum specimen of a longhorn beetle.

A spectacular Museum specimen of a longhorn beetle.

About 28 million insect specimens are looked after by the UK's largest entomology department, and for the first time in 6 years the public has access to the department during the Open Doors to the Insect Collections event on 26 and 27 June .

Insects play a vital role in nature and make up about 80% of the world's species. They carry out crucial jobs like pollinating plants and recycling animal dung and a huge number of other animals depend on them for food.

The Museum's world-class collections are cared for behind the scenes by curators where they are studied by scientists and researchers from all over the world, so this truly is an opportunity not to be missed.

170,000 drawers
Museum specimen of a Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly, the world's largest butterfly

Museum specimen of a Queen Alexandra's birdwing butterfly, the world's largest known butterfly

A staggering 170,000 drawers are needed to home the millions of insects, almost half of which contain butterflies and moths.

The 28 million insect specimens have been gathered over the last 300 years, the earliest specimens are a collection of pressed insects in a bound book by Leonard Plukenet from 1690.

The insects in the collection range in size from the barely visible fairy fly, Alaptus magnanimus>, (with a wingspan of 0.02cm) to the world's largest moth, Thysania agrippina> , from Central and South America (with a wingspan of 30cm).

National Insect Week at the Museum

Insect events are happening all over the UK for the Royal Entomological Society's National Insect Week  from 23-29 June and as a partner organisation, the Natural History Museum is helping to raise awareness of these important creatures with events at the Museum.

Open Doors to the Insect Collections is free and on 26 and 27 June between 12.30-16.30

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