This week (20th – 26th June) is National Insect Week, a chance to celebrate and discover more about these amazing 6-legged creatures. This week is organised by the Royal Entomological Society every two years with the aim to “encourage people of all ages to learn more about insects“. An aim that I can thoroughly support!
Insects are a group of animals that are often under-appreciated, even amongst many so called wildlife-lovers. A lot of people, including said wildlife lovers, prefer animals that are cute and/or fluffy and they can relate to. The usual suspects are mammals and birds, and occasionally this may stretch to amphibians and reptiles (rarely fish though).
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t love and admire and spend time watching mammals, birds, etc. I have had the pleasure and good fortune to see a wide variety of mammals and birds, both here in the UK and in South Africa. I have loved watching them and discovering more about them. In fact, my undergraduate dissertation was on a mammal species as I spent hours watching Plains Zebras to learn more about their behaviour, and then a couple of years later, I was back in S. Africa as a Research Assistant on the Dwarf Mongoose Research Project – mammals again!
But insects now, they are superb. From the flashy (ostentatious even?) butterflies to the almost-drab – the cockroaches, the click beetles, the pug moths – every insects species has at least one feature that can be admired, be it the pattern on its wings, the method of feeding or finding a mate, or how it affects other wildlife.
However, I don’t want to go into much detail about how amazing insects are. I want you to discover that for yourself. Instead, I would like to highlight how AFON members can get more into insects.
National Insect Week
Sadly this is only once every two years, whereas really it should be every year! You can get involved by attending an event near you, submitting a photo into their competition and reading their new magazine for young entomologists.
Wildlife Identification Quizzes
I kicked these quizzes off sometime last year, inspired by other Facebook groups. As I am a big fan of insects and I have a lot of photos of them, I will admit that I am slightly biased with the taxon group featured most in the quizzes. Some other AFON members have started helping me out and posting quizzes themselves. The current one is on Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and was put together by Alex Berryman.
Simon Phelps is running an event at Knepp Estate (Sussex) in mid July for AFON which will look at the rewilding approach there, and will include some surveying for insects and invertebrates. More information can be found here.
I am organising an event for late July in Northamptonshire that aims to introduce AFON members to the basics of insect identification. Butterflies, moths and dragonflies will be mentioned, but it will focus more on other groups that are harder to start learning – beetles, flies, grasshoppers and bees for example. Details will be available soon for this event.
The latest book review for the AFON blog was ‘Beetle Boy’ by M.G.Leonard by Harley Wilde. I am hoping that some AFON members might be keen on writing some book reviews on insect-focussed books, including field guides. Interested? Let me know.
A number of the AFON mentors are entomologists, so why not apply for mentor to help you develop your entomological skills?
One of the best ways to discover insects is to get out there and look for them! Even if you don’t know what you are looking at, they are still fascinating!