It's been a while, but things have been very busy in the Coleoptera section this month, and this is because we have all been occupied by getting ready for the big event that is the Prague Insect Fair! (Please see deliberate pun in title, courtesy of Max Barclay).
Yes, that's right, a whole weekend in March dedicated to insects; and if that's not enough, the good entomologists of Europe and beyond, do it all again in October!
This is a really important time for our department and it's been all hands on deck to prepare beetle specimens ready for transport to the Czech Republic.
Here are a number of entomologists getting excited about insects...
And here are some more entomologists - this time really excited...
Where to begin? Well, our over-arching aim in the Coleoptera section is to improve the quality of the collection, in terms of identifed specimens, specimens made available for research, and a far reaching geographical spread of species that supports not only the taxonomic research community but also the ecological and conservation community; essentially our specimens can help inform conservation practice throughout the world - and Prague provides the platform for this to occur.
So this month we have contacted all our colleagues throughout Europe to see if they will be attending the fair, and if there are any specimens from our collection they would like to see - this is our loans system, which facilitates world-wide research in to the specimens held in the NHM's collections. Our colleagues put in a request and we 'process' the loan - yes, it has kind of felt like a very long beetle production line this month. The specimens are exchanged in Prague, along with a few beers and some fascinating exchanges on all things Coleoptera no doubt!
The other job is to prepare all our specimens collected on fieldwork trips for transit, in order that they can be mounted, or identifed by some of the most proficient experts in Europe and the World.
It's not an easy job to carry thousands of insects abroad, so we recruit a number of 'carriers' to get our insect stash out of the country, along with a couple of responsible (?!) members of staff.
Here's some interesting statistics yielded from last October's Insect Fair (too soon for this year's results):
Loans for 34 people (56 boxes) were carried to Prague and we returned with 41 people's pre-existing loans in 62 boxes; this meant we met with and exchanged loans with 58 people from 14 countries!
Here's Max signing off a loan for some expectant Coleopterists.
We returned with 92 boxes of newly mounted material (insects pinned or carded) which made up a whopping 18,428 specimens!
The total number of specimens identified for us by borrowers from our undetermined material was 2,170 and an additional 1,243 specimens were indentified from unprepared material by specialist mounters.
In total 3,413 NHM unidentified specimens were identified on this trip.
As good will it is the convention to exchange specimens between organisations as 'gifts' and so we received 16 specimens (mainly paratypes) and19 new Holotypes - how generous!. We also received 226 new paratypes from previously unidentified NHM material.
Here are a number of 'responsible' members of staff and highly respected scientists , with their 'carriers' from left to right:
Martin Brendell, Donald Quicke, Mike Morris, Howard Mendel, Fran Sconce and Max Barclay
Entomology’s very own Spice Boys, rocking a ‘geek chic’ vibe, thanks to some cheeky accessories and some luxurious matching luggage (I wish I could take credit for such wit, but sadly I cannot. This is the work of the Entomology Department's inimitable PA Esther Murphy)
From left to right: David Oram, Max Barclay, Martin Brendell, Roger Booth, Mike Morris
The best is that the NHM benefitted by 208 new species names to the collection as a result of this trip!
Can't wait for October!
Photo courtesy of Rafal Ruta
The Coleopterists have left the building!