Buzzing about at the Insect Festival

Okay, there was no buzzing. Not from the Museum table anyway; all of our exhibits had been dead for a while. But the whole Royal Ent Soc event, hosted in the Hospitium in Museum Gardens, was packed full of visitors and there was definitely a buzz about the place.

The Museum brought some specimen trays containing beetles, flies, moths and butterflies. These had been chosen to try to debunk some common myths; namely, that moths are only brown, only fly at night and are all (and only) attracted to light, that butterflies are much larger than moths and that flies are, well, boring.

Our stand was constantly busy with families, couples and interested individuals who asked lots of interesting questions about what these insects would have eaten, how old they were and where they might be found today. Many were surprised to hear that Yorkshire hosts species of day-flying moths that can be spotted in gardens and green spaces across the county and were intrigued to find out about the Dark Bordered Beauty that is becoming increasingly more rare and can now only be seen at five sites (one of which happens to be Strensall Common).

The Yorkshire Museum’s Natural Sciences stand. You can see some of the specimens that we brought to display.

I got the chance to have a wander around the other exhibitions on my break. I faced my fears at the spider table and now know how to tell the different between a male and a female. The males have “boxing glove” type features at the front, but, as I told the gentleman who was showing me the live spiders, I am very unlikely to ever get close enough to one to worry about its sex. I also joined the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. It is an absolute bargain at Β£2.75 per month and I was particularly pleased with the handbook that came included in the price. It details all the nature reserves and wildlife spotting areas across Yorkshire and, importantly, even tells you whether or not the sites are dog-friendly.

Facing my fears…

The stand next to ours belonged to The Pirbright Institute. Their expertise is on the prevention and control of viral diseases and they had brought with them a selection of adult and larval mosquitoes that you could see in real time on their laptop screen using a hand held camera. I was able to have a chat with one of their staff about my PhD and he was really enthusiastic about using vector manipulation to control the spread of diseases.

Displaying my new badge from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The festival is held once every two years and cost Β£1 per adult to enter, with children free. It is such good value for money for how much there is to do and it really appeals to every age group and interest level. There is even the opportunity to eat some bugs, although I didn’t take them up on their offer this time…

More information about the festival can be found at the Royal Entomological Society’s website, where you can also discover more about the Society itself.

I really enjoyed interacting with the public and showing them the insects. Photo credit Jane Hill.

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