Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A date for everyone's diary

We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting the BENHS for their Member's Day/AGM on the 23rd of March.

"The Society was founded in 1872 as the South London Entomological and Natural History Society and since its inception has always included amongst its members many of the leading entomologists of the day.
The objectives of the Society are the promotion and advancement of research in entomology with an increasing emphasis now being placed on the conservation of the fauna and flora of the United Kingdom and the protection of wildlife throughout the world".

The department has in the past, greatly enjoyed hosting the BENHS and other societies for a variety of different events and we hope that this occassion will be as entertaining as the others. We expect it to be a busy day, with staff dividing their time between the lecture theatre, the collections and socialising with members. We will be on hand to try and answer any questions people may have about the collections or entomology in general as well as to make sure that there is plenty of tea and biscuits avaliable to help fuel the thinking.

Details of the meeting, which is open to members and non-members alike, can be found below. 


AGM and Members' Day Programme Saturday 23rd March 2013

Hosted by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

All of the meeting is open to both members and non-members, although only members are allowed to vote on any motions put to the AGM.

Exhibits of live or dead insects, photos, literature, posters etc. will be most welcome. Please display these in the lecture theatre when you arrive. They may then be viewed and discussed during the lunch break.

Within the UK, the Hope Entomological Collections are second in size and importance to the national insect collection at the Natural History Museum, London. The collection houses over 25,000 arthropod types, and comprises over 5 million specimens.  The collection includes many specimens of great historical interest from such sources as the Hope-Westwood and Verrall-Collin collections. 

For those wishing to consult the collection during the day, please contact the department in advance:


Programme for the day

10.15   Arrive, coffee/tea, display of exhibits

10.50   Welcoming remarks and introduction to the day

11.00   Galls and their insects. Margaret Redfern (University of Sheffield and British Plant Gall Society)

11.35   21st century insect arrivals in the UK. Sharon Reid (FERA)

12.10   The effects of extreme fluctuating temperatures on aphid life history traits. Christopher Jeffs
            (University of Oxford). Student presentation

12.30   Facing up to Beetles. Michael Darby (BENHS)

12.50   Something different. Glenda Orledge (BENHS) Please bring a pen or pencil for this item

13.00   Lunch and viewing of exhibits (bring your own packed lunch or forage in one of the nearby pubs or

14.00   Society notices

14.15   Annual General Meeting with elections, reports and Presidential Address (PTO for AGM notice)

15.00   Extreme Insects. Richard Jones (BENHS). By special invitation of the President

15.45   Conclusion of the AGM and Tea

16.00   Tour of the entomological collections, led by Darren J. Mann

16.45   Close of meeting

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

There's a fly on my nose!

By Mike Ackland
Honorary Associate of the HEC

In September 2011, John Carr of Massachusetts, USA, posted photographs of an anthomyiid fly on the website This site has thousands of photos of flies, sent in by both diptera enthusiasts who are keen photographers, and experts who offer advice and possible identification.

I recognised the anthomyiid as a species of Eutrichota, which has over 50 species in the Nearctic Region. Positive identification to species however generally requires examination of a specimen under a microscope. John, who is a very good photographer and naturalist, later added to his posting some very clear close-ups of various parts of a male specimen he had caught, and offered to send the specimen to me. This proved to be Eutrichota affinis (Stein), a species widespread in America and which is associated with the groundhog Marmota monax L. and may be found in and around their burrows. The larvae are considered to be facultative commensals probably feeding in excrement and debris in the burrows.

A few other species of Eutrichota in North America have been associated with mammals including ground squirrels, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus (Mitchell), chipmunks, Tamias striatus (L.) and various species of gophers (Geomys spp.).

In Europe other species of Eutrichota have been found around the burrows of the Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota L. There are seven species of Eutrichota in Britain, though no life histories are known. See Pont & Ackland, 1995 for more details of the flies found in the Alps (full reference below). I first met Adrian Pont (another Hope Department Honorary Associate) in the mid 1950's in Leigh Woods near Bristol, where we were both collecting insects. So we have both been studying flies for over 50 years.

Recently John Carr sent me two photographs of specimens of Eutrichota affinis on the head and nose of a groundhog. These were taken in Connecticut on 30th May 2009. The groundhog family was living in a culvert, and John reports that they later ate part of his sister's garden!
My thanks to John for permission to use these excellent photos.

Diptera, Anthomyiidae, fly, Eutrichota, Eutrichota affinis, Marmot, Marmota monax
There's a fly on my nose!
Diptera, Anthomyiidae, fly, Eutrichota, Eutrichota affinis, Marmot, Marmota monax
Females of Eutrichota affinis (Stein)(Diptera: Anthomyiidae) on the head of the groundhog Marmota monax L.

Pont, A.C. & Ackland, D.M. (1995). Fanniidae, Muscidae and Anthomyiidae associated with Burrows of the Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota Linnaeus in the upper Ötz Valley (Tyrol, Austria). Insecta, Diptera. Berichte des naturwissenschaftlich-medizinischen Vereins in Innsbruck, 82: 319-324.

A pdf version of the paper is avaliable HERE.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

10th Coleopterists Day

On February 2nd we hosted for the second year the annual national beetle (Coleoptera) enthusiasts day, with the fifty attendees coming from as far as Cornwall and Lancashire. The day kicked off with proper coffee, tea and biscuits and then a series of talks, followed by a tour of the entomology department and a dung beetle workshop. 

The talks presented were a nice mix of professional, student and enthusiast and were enjoyable and entertaining. The talks were: Using traits to evaluate ladybird distributions – Richard Comont, CEH; Prionus coriarius in Richmond Park – John Lock; Suckers & sexual conflict in diving beetles – Dave Bilton, Plymouth University; Studying the ecology of British Oil Beetles – John Walters; New initiatives to support beetle recording in Britain – Helen Roy, BRC.

Coleoptera, beetles, lecture, OUMNH
Helen Roy presenting her talk on beetle recording in Britain
The collections (thanks to Amoret Spooner) and Library (thanks to the Librarian Kate Santry) were accessible throughout the afternoon, and many took advantage of using the library (for the first time) and the collections to confirm identifications against our reference material or just to see the more unusual species and extract data. 

The workshop ‘Dung Beetle Identification’ was a bit of squeeze in our teaching area, with a few too many enthusiastic coleopterists wanting to know how to identify the small and often difficult Aphodius

Coleoptera, beetles, dung beetles, Scarabaeidae, British, identification
Darren Mann presenting his workshop on dung beetle identification
However, using our digital video set-up and monitor we managed to get through the entire dung beetle fauna, giving tips and tricks on their identification and interpretation of the key couplets, the stalwart coleopterists continuing until 8pm.

Coleoptera, beetles, identification, course, Scarabaeidae, characters, morphology
Darren Mann using the video microscope to show characters used in the identification of British dung beetle species