Skip navigation

A new Beginning...

Posted by Erica McAlister Sep 16, 2009

So I thought that things would calm down but I was woefully wrong! After the national press day, there was the international press day..four hours in the 'box'. It has to be said though that thanks to the reflection from the windows unless people come up close we can not really see them...and then they look like they are on a TV screen...who is watching who? sadly I was not important enough to be invited to the event with Prince William and (to me the most important ) Sir David  or make it to the evening event but the remnants of the event are still scattered over the floor of the new building in the shape of thousands of paper butterflies. The press seemed to like the building and there was one report that even mentioned me (albeit as the friendly entomologist


But it should calm down now on the public offer side, not!  We have some filming tomorrow with the BBC about the sampling that we carried out earlier in the year on Bookham Common. My desk is covered in flies at the moment trying to go through the samples! I have sorted them into the major insect orders and passed on the different groups to the relevant curators. I have been pinning flies and sorting them to family. One of the other curators in Diptera specialises in Calyptrates but is also very good on all types of flies...(very handy). He has just identified my pipunculids (Big headed flies ), sadly none are particularly uncommon. There are lots of Dolichopodidae (the boys have enormous external genitalia...), some lovely robberflies, loads of Empids (dance flies- they have great piercing mouthparts) etc etc. I will be sorting for quite a while. This, along with all the material that I and other members of staff have collected throughout the year from various collecting trips (most of which were with the Dipterists Forum), will go into the main British Collection as well as the Synoptic collection that goes into the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity. We have an assistant in our section at the moment who is producing the labels for all the trays (there are 7000+ species of flies in the UK). All I can hear behind me is the swish swish of the guillotine .


I was visited today by a lad who does the most amazing biological drawings of insects. He first came to us a couple of years ago for a behind the scenes tour that I gave of the Entomology department. He was sadly too young to volunteer for us then but has kept in contact. He now is able to volunteer (over 18) and also brings in flies each time that we can identify together. What was very exciting this week was that he sampled from his garden a relatively new species of Hoverfly to the UK. It has two previous recordings only and we do not have any in our collection that were collected from the UK - it's great , i love adding to the collection.

Erica McAlister

Member since: Sep 3, 2009

I'm Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera in the Entomology Department. My role involves working in the collection (I have about 30000 species to look after and over a million specimens), sometimes in the lab, and thankfully sometimes in the field.

View Erica McAlister's profile