Zoe Adams

How did our young scientists get interested in the natural world?

Zoe Adams - Entomologist

An entomologist studies insects.

What made you want to be an entomologist?
Zoe Adams, Entomologist

Zoe Adams.

In truth I became an entomologist by accident. We had a very good lecturer at university who was particularly keen on human parasites and I became interested in this area.

After I graduated, a job came up at the Museum looking at insect vectors of human and animal parasites. I applied for the job and have been here ever since.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to be an entomologist?

It's always nice to have a good background general knowledge of the organisms you are interested in.

What subjects at school were you best at?

Biology and physics.

What's the best thing about being an entomologist?

The job never seems to stay the same so you are always learning new things and trying out different techniques.

What's the worst thing about being an entomologist?

It can be quite hard to get funding for new projects sometimes. Insects are not the most high profile of organisms.

What's the most exciting thing you've found, discovered or researched?

Checking the boss for human botfly larvae after a field trip to Bolivia. He's had two in his forearm and one in the thigh!

What's your favourite insect?

Definitely Gyrostigma rhinocerontis. The rhinoceros stomach botfly has such a cool lifecycle. Rhinos are creatures of habit and have definite 'toilets' throughout their range where they always deposit their dung. When the larvae of the botfly, which live in the rhino's stomach, are ready to pupate they allow themselves to be passed out with the dung and pupate inside the dung heap at the toilet.

The adult flies that emerge never need to leave the dung heap. Why would they? Sooner or later a suitable mate will emerge from the dung and there is a constant stream of rhinos visiting to use the toilet that can be infested with the next generation of flies - brilliant!

What's your favourite thing on display in the Museum?

The section from a giant Sequoia tree trunk. I've visited a grove of giant Sequoia in California and they really are the most majestic things.

What's your favourite website about entomology?

The Invertebrate Conservation Trust has a nice website particularly good for finding out what you can do to help conserve insects. For kids try the Amateur Entomologists' Society bug club site with lots of info on identifying insects, keeping pet insects and fun activities throughout the UK.

What's your favourite book about entomology?

Blowflies (Diptera, Calliphoridae ) of Fennoscandia and Denmark by Knut Rognes. I'm not suggesting anyone go out and read this book, it's definitely a specialist text for people like me, but Dr Rognes has done such a good job, his text is a pleasure to use and I have become something of a fan.

Are there any clubs or societies that young people can join if they want to take their interest further?

People could join the Amateur Entomologists' Society. They run the bug club for kids with plenty of useful info and activities and are famous for their annual exhibition held on the first Saturday of each October.

What would you do if you weren't an entomologist?

For years I've been taking evening classes in pottery so I like to think I could become a potter, but most likely I'd miss science so maybe I'd become a botanist working at Kew Gardens.

Further info



Young naturalists

Catching flies in the Natural History Museum video

OPAL Bugs Count - join the bug hunt

External links

Buglife - The Invertebrate Conservation Trust

Amateur Entomologists' Society Bug Club

Glossary - what does that word mean?

Larvae – is the plural of Larva.

Many insects go through different stages as they grow and change shape in each stage. The larva is the second stage that they change to.

  • Stage 1. They change from an egg to a larva.
  • Stage 2. They change from a larva to a pupa.
  • Stage 3. They change from a pupa to an adult.

For example a maggot is the larva form of an adult fly.

Dung – the poo of animals.

Pupate – to become a Pupa. Pupa is the third stage in the life of an insect.