Dracula bug: spooky Halloween surprise in Museum grounds

30 October 2013

Museum volunteers have unearthed a spookily seasonal leafhopper while examining samples from the Wildlife Garden.

The unusual looking bug has markings on its back resembling Count Dracula. 

Disappointingly, for some horror fans, Bug Dracula is actually a type of leafhopper and feeds on the sap of plants, not human blood. 

Cagla Stevenson and Ashleigh Whiffin, members of a volunteer insect sorting crew, found the bug in a routine sample taken the Museum’s Wildlife Garden.

Dracula bug discovery in Museum lab

Biology graduate Cagla Stevenson working in the Museum Diptera lab, where she discovered the Dracula bug.

Bug surprise

Every week, staff from the Museum's Diptera lab set a Malaise trap, a fine mesh tent-like structure, in the Museum grounds and the specimens, usually flies, are examined by the volunteer scientists. 

Dr Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera (flies), said, ‘We were surprised to see a spooky little face staring back at us when we looked through our samples. 

'Leafhopper markings vary a lot but this is quite unusual.' Dr McAlister said.

'This bug is immature and its pattern would probably darken to blend in as it matures. The fact this looks like a vampire’s face really took us by surprise.’

The Wildlife Garden at the Museum was created to encourage people to engage with nature in the city and is open until 3 November. It reopens again on 1 April 2014.

The Dracula bug discovery coincides with a new campaign to encourage children to give up half an hour of indoor screen time to re-engage with nature and the outdoors. 

The campaign has been launched by the newly formed Wild Network, a collaboration of 400 organisations including the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Andy Simpson, chairman of the Wild Network, said that it's a tragic truth that children have lost touch with nature and the outdoors in just one generation. 

Conkers, conkers drive you bonkers

The campaign aims to encourage children to learn traditional activities such as playing conkers, camping and snail racing. 

A mild spring and a hot, damp summer created a bumper crop of conkers this autumn.

Creepy Crawlies gallery

Anyone curious about strange-looking bugs can visit the Creepy Crawlies gallery at the Museum and the Kids only section of the website for tips on finding bugs in the garden.

  • by Nicola Pearson