Hello! My name is Siobhan Hillman and I am currently an entomologist in training. I have only quite recently become interested in the study of insects but I have a lot of passion for them and like to share what I’ve learnt so far with others. My favourite insects (as you probably guessed by the name of this blog) are aphids, with a recently developed love for thrips too, and so these are the insects I will mainly be blogging about.
It was around my second year of studying Zoology at Derby University when I first become interested in Entomology, before that I wanted to conserve all the cute, fluffy mammals that the public and media love so much. I had my eyes opened by a group of local entomologists called the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Entomological Society (DaNES). And I was also fortunate enough to have a resident Entomology Professor, Karim Vahed (cricket man) as well as the Head of Department, Andrew Ramsey (@doc_ramsey), who is very passionate about butterflies and had worked with aphids. I also should mention another lecturer, Debbie Alston (@Debbie1Alston), who encouraged me a lot during my time at university and introduced me to many of these people, without her I would have probably never met DaNES or come so far as an entomologist. So, compared to some student entomologists I was gifted with numerous local individuals who went above and beyond to help me get my foot in this amazing field of work.
*Alex, myself and a handful of members of DaNES at the summer exhibition held at Shipley Park, Derbyshire.
This led to me to wanting to do an entomology based undergraduate dissertation project. As a beginner, and I assume like many beginners, the first group of insects I learnt about were the Lepidoptera, specifically butterflies. As compared to other insect groups there aren’t many UK butterflies and they are also relatively easy to identify. I went to Dr Andrew Ramsey and asked for some advice on an IS topic. I was going to study the White-letter Hairstreak Butterfly. However, this did not go to plan. Out of all the surveys I did, I only ever saw one caterpillar. So we discussed what I should do and we eventually came to my final project topic – testing for host plant resistance in a number of Brassica species against the cabbage aphid, Brevicoryne brassicae. Before Andrew had suggested doing this project I had never thought about studying aphids. But I’m glad he did as they are now the insects I have the most interest in!
As well as doing my dissertation on aphids, we also had the option to take an Applied Entomology module in our third year. This module was a taster session to what entomology is all about, covering taxonomy and how entomology is applied to other fields of research. Led by Kate Barnes (from the Forensic Science department) and assisted by Karim, Andrew and Andy Chick (@DrNicrophorus), a (now former) PhD student and associate lecturer at Derby who has also helped me a lot during my journey.
It was also in my third year that I had started to think about what I wanted to do after I graduated. Nothing compared to studying entomology and so I started to look at an MSc course that had been recommended to me by numerous other entomologists. I attended an open day early in my third year along with my partner Alex Dye (@AlexLikesFlies), and the course was everything we wanted so we applied. I am now currently studying the MSc in Entomology at Harper Adams where I hope to again do my dissertation on something aphid-y and to go onto further postgraduate studies once I have finished.
I decided to start a blog because:
1) I want to use it to help me learn about aphids (and other insects too) and,
2) I think there needs to more love for aphids in the world!
I hope you enjoy reading 🙂