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National Insect Week 21-27th June

Posted by Blaps Jun 22, 2010

Okay, so I am one day late - perhaps entomologists are as unpredictable and imprecise as the insects they study?!'s National Insect Week, and there is so much going on...

It's great to have a whole week dedicated to those amazing and diverse creatures that help to keep this planet alive (I know - that's putting it very simply!).


So what is going on at the Museum this week - well, for a start Species of the Day will feature a British insect each day, and today's our lovely colleague Erica features the menacing Asilus crabroniformis or more commonly, the hornet robber fly



Follow this link to find out more about National Insect Week


We will be here:


along with the entomology department, basically showing off! It kind of puts me in mind of a village fete, but with insects, and without the cake!


The Identification and Advisory Service will have on display our weird and wonderful creatures that people have brought in for identification over the years and be on hand to identify anything you might find to show us - so come on down!


I see that National Insect Week has also got in on the Blog, it's great to see some old and new entomologist friends having their say - insects have a voice! Hoorah!


Here is one of the Phyllobius weevils hanging out with some ants!

2010 phyllobius with ants_low suffolk.jpg


Each week, month or even day there is always an enquiry favourite


This month's most popular enquiry has to be the Ermine moth, we have had sooo many calls and photos about this very naughty caterpillar. As ever, insects get in to the media when they cause a nuisance, and this one is quite dramatic. As an entomologist, I am not too phased by this extroardinary behaviour, but, to the unitiated, it might well appear like somehting out of  a horror film, to arrive at your car to find this:


Or wake up one morning and find this in your back garden:


Or, like this farmer from Suffolk, never seen anything like it in 40 years of farming:

2010 yponomeuta in suffolk.JPG


The Ermine moths belong to a family called the Yponomeutidae of which there are approximately 75 species in the UK. They are a very difficult group to tell apart as some can be morphologically very similar. However, for the more common species, as with many insects, they give us a clue to what they are by where we find them.


The photo above shows Yponomeuta sp 'tents' on Hawthorn; The Orchard Ermine, Yponomeuta padella larvae (caterpillar) takes hawthorn as one of its food plants, so we could make an assumption without actually seeing the specimen in this case. In identification - detective work is all-important!


The question that everyone is asking (again, insects get us talking) is why? Why are they appearing now, in areas they have never been seen before, and in such vast numbers? Well, I guess this is open to conjecture.


The ermines are quite common, they can be found on the wing from July-August - but what has lead to this 'population explosion'? Well, it could be lack of parasitization by Ichneumonids, in conjunction with exceptionally favourable enviromnmental conditions; in nature the balance can tip, but it rights itself in the end.


It's that timeof year when scientists and naturalists feel compelled to get out in to the great outdoors and tell the world just how many species we live with in our near environment.


As well as 'biodiversity' - the new buzz word (no pun intended, but unavoidable - sorry!) is BIOBLITZ.


But what does it mean?


24 hours of non-stop searching, researching and recording of the natural organisms in one given environment. It's an excellent way to get a snap-shot of what is happening in our natural and urban environments at any given time and actually, just how diverse and amazing the many species we encounter in that short time can be.


Last year the OPAL team did a BIOBLITZ at Wembury in Devon and an amazing 800+ species were recorded in 24 hours.


Just a couple of weeks ago, museum scientists, including a few from the IAS did a BIOBLITZ in Juliette Jowett's London garden, finding an amazing 200+ species - just in a normal suburban garden; so....


What are we going to find at Alexandra Palace - 196 acres of urban park and wildspace


Join us tomorrow from 10am to find and record as many species as possible - it's so exciting!

Today the OPAL team have been setting up with field equipment: nets, pooters, buckets, recording sheets, suntan lotion - in fact, anything you could possibly need for a good day out of natural history hunting! It is also the BBC's Spring Watch Wild Day Out


Will we beat Wembury and fnd more than 800 species - lets try!


See you tomorrow folks...