Skip navigation

Life sciences news

2 Posts tagged with the moth tag

A team of Museum scientists and volunteers visited Slapton Ley Nature Reserve between 21-25 July to sample invertebrates from a variety of habitats. Rachel Clark writes about their final day in the field.

25 July 2014


Today was the last day of sampling and we all loved it! Unfortunately Sara had to leave today, so we took the final photograph of us all together before we set off for sampling.



All of us looking a little more tanned than when we arrived. Front row (left to right): Jan, Ryan, Fez, Georgie and Sara. Back row (left to right): Rachel, Thomas, George, Miranda and Beau.


Every evening this week we've been preparing the specimens we collected back at the field centre, and it's fiddly work!


The new age of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)


Some of the specimens collected during our fieldwork are destined for the Museum’s new Molecular Collections Facility (MRF), where they will be stored in liquid nitrogen at −150 °C to form a collection that can be used by scientists worldwide who want to study the DNA and other cellular contents of the species in question.


Over three evenings, after our lovely cooked meal served by Shaun from the FSC, two groups of four carefully collected tissue samples from freshly killed specimens.


The sample tissue (often the legs) were put into special small plastic vials then placed into liquid nitrogen vapour in a dry shipper, which freezes and preserves them.



Left: the small vials which contain tissue samples. Right: a dry shipper with nitrogen vapour inside.


In total we spent 49.5 person-hours over three days preparing the samples from 220 specimens, each sample taking on average 14 minutes to process. We tried to ensure that we only collected a maximum of two of each species - all being larger invertebrates (flies, grasshoppers, wasps, spiders etc).


Our last site!


While some enjoyed sweeping, pootering and collecting butterflies, two of us (Miranda and I) went in search for a new site on the lake to put down yellow pan traps. We ended up on the edge of Slapton village - a four-mile round trip!



The large, miles-long Slapton Ley!



The beautiful walkway created by the FSC, which runs through the swamp fen in the south grounds of the Nature Reserve.


We did get some amazing views and got to sample right in the middle of Slapton’s Swamp Fen, which is something we would not have achieved! The photograph above shows just how big the Ley is: miles!


Our last Supper

In the evening we headed off to our last dinner together before we packed up to head home. This was held in the main FSC centre in Slapton.

We would like to say a massive thank you for the staff that looked after our stomachs during our time in Slapton, and particularly Shaun who was there every day serving us breakfast and dinner!


Thank you for reading - I hope you have enjoyed our blogging!



Goodbye beautiful Slapton!



The sun setting over Devon, from the field across from our base, Start Bay Centre.


A team of Museum scientists and volunteers visited Slapton Ley Nature Reserve between 21-25 July to sample invertebrates from a variety of habitats. Rachel Clark writes about their second day in the field, including the range of traps they use to collect insects.

For the last two nights we have been putting out Ryan’s light trap. The trap runs all night and collects invertebrates such as moths, flies, beetles and wasps, which are especially attracted to the bright light - with a high ultraviolet component it is much more powerful than a household light bulb.


You can pooter specimens from around the trap while it is on, but you can also leave the insects in the trap overnight and take a look in the morning.



Ryan and Thomas looking at what is flying around the light trap.


During our moth-trapping we collected a range of species, including Poplar and elephant hawk-moths, rosy footman, buff-tip, common footman, drinker moth and magpie moth... to name a few.



Left to right; buff-tip, rosy footman and poplar hawk-moth which were found in the light trap.


We also used a method known as sweeping, which as the name suggests is sweeping a net in a figure-of-eight through vegetation. The net catches the invertebrates and they can then be pootered out of the net bag.



Left: Jan teaching us how to use a sweep net. Right: Jan demonstrating how to pooter/aspirate effectively.


Jan provided an excellent demonstration for all of us on our first day of sampling; we are all now brilliant at sweeping in a figure-of-eight!


Later on some of us went to great lengths to collect some samples, including taking a paddle in the lake, which contains leeches!



Left: some adventurous collectors searching the reeds for specimens. Right: a mass of leeches found under a rock (as well as on our skin).


With that I will leave you with a beautiful scenic picture from the Ley!

Thank you for reading.




Taken at the lake as the day draws in.