This year was the third year I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Oxford Coleopterists Day, after being introduced to it in the third year of my undergrad by members of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Entomological Society. And as expected, it was fantastic and definitely remains as one of my favourite, can’t miss, events of the year. It was also lovely to see so many younger people attending an entomological event! Thanks to Amo (@EntoAmo) for organising such an incredible day and Helen Roy (@UKLadybirds) for chairing the talks 🙂
The first talk of the day was on the genus Anthrenus in the Dermestidae by Graham Holloway. As most entomologists will know, the museum beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) is widely abhorred by many for eating our insect collections! But Graham provided an eye-opening talk, discussing how some species in the genus may only be rare because we choose to overlook them. A good example of his was ‘oh, it’s just a pigeon or a gull’, his response ‘well, how do you know?’. And I know I’m also guilty of this, ‘oh, it’s just a butterfly’. So, I think the take home message was, don’t overlook species because you think they’re common, because it might well not be what you think it is! The next talk was by Wil ‘the Ponker’ Heeney, who decided to put aside his longhorn beetle recording scheme (aside from a quick update) in favour of speaking about his finding of darkling beetles and journey into being a Coleopterist. Jordan Chetcuti (@JordanChetcuti) from the University of Leeds and the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology spoke to us about his PhD research on creating multi-species simulations of ground beetles. I loved all of the animations and we’re all interested to see how his PhD progresses over the coming years!
And possibly my favourite terms of the day were ‘squishy beetles’ and ‘squishy journey’, with Steph Skipp speaking about her role as a trainee for the future at the NHM and her work with Cantharids and the Cantharidae recording scheme. This talk has definitely made me want to go out and record some of these wonderfully squishy beetles this year! This was followed by a ‘rant’ on why more people should study beetles by Richard Jones. Seizing the chance to plug his newly published book on beetles, Richard spoke about the importance of not only spreading interest and joy in the study of beetles (and insects in general), but also emphasized that we as entomologists had a duty to educate and defend the value of collecting specimens for science.
Just before we attended the afternoon workshop, we had the opportunity to look at the fantastic collections behind the scenes at the museum. Alex became rather absorbed in the weevil collection (see one of his awesome pictures below!). Darren Mann (@BlattaMann) then took centre stage in the afternoon to run a workshop on the Aphodinii, a group of small but occasionally complex dung beetles. Alex brought along a few of his collected specimens to identify after Darren ran us through some of their morphological differences. The session proved more popular than Darren and the team were expecting, with people gathering in the corridor behind just to listen in. If you like dung beetles and would like to identify and record them, then be sure to check out Team Dump’s website (https://dungbeetlemap.wordpress.com) and follow them on Twitter (@Team_DUMP).
The Coleopterists day also provides the opportunity to see some of my favourite people in the world. If anyone knows Dave Budworth, they’ll know what a character he is, and an absolutely incredible entomologist. And naturally, as the treasurer of DaNES, he was after our subs money, yet again. Another fantastic entomologist I had the pleasure of seeing again was Darren Clarke, chairman of DaNES, fantastic entomologist and completely eccentric. Both of these men are very much father figures, and probably the two most influential men in the start of my entomological career. So, if you live in Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire, I’d highly recommend joining the society and following them on twitter (@DaNES_Insects)!
Please check out the national recording schemes on twitter (@NLonghornRS, @SilphidaeUk, @WeevilRS) and the coleopteran recording schemes (http://www.coleoptera.org.uk/recording-schemes) and the inspirational people who run them! I’ll hopefully be doing some beetle recording of my own this year. Already looking forward to next year’s event (16th Coleopterists Day – 09.02.2019), see you there 🙂
Coauthored by Alex (@AlexLikesFlies)