The Entomology Collection has inspired many users and uses. This blogpost is by Przemyslaw Glomski, undergraduate student at University of Manchester and reflects his curiosity for insects and his idea on developing a science communication project.

By Przemyslaw Glomski

Manchester Museum’s vast Entomology collection is awe-inspiring; however, the specimens rarely get a chance to be in the spotlight. As a Zoology student studying at the University of Manchester, I decided to dedicate my final year project towards the collection and displaying it to the public. I worked closely with the Museum to create an educational resource to use mainly in the classroom but also in other educational settings.

The educational resource that I created focuses on the importance of beetles (order Coleoptera) and highlights interesting phenomena displayed by this group, such as mimicry. Coleoptera is one of the most speciose insect groups, accounting for about 25% of the entire world’s animal species diversity. Even with such an abundance of beetles, they are often overlooked as important keystone species. For this reason, the resource I created aims to inspire a younger audience about the importance of entomology and more specifically beetles.

Selecting the best specimens for the educational resource

Specimens used

All the specimens used in the resource came directly from the Entomology Collection, Manchester Museum. Altogether, four boxes of specimens were created. The first box highlighted the wide diversity of beetles found in the UK (Rove Beetle – Cerophilus maxillosus, Great Diving Beetle – Dytiscus marginalis, Bloody-nosed Beetle – Timarcha tenebricosa, Oil Beetle – Meloe violaseus, Leafe Beetle – Chrysolina cercalis, Leaf Beetle – Chrysolina banksi, Wasp Beetle – Clytus arietis, Timberman Beetle – Acanthocinus aedilis, Stag Beetles – Lucanus cervus, Horned Dung Beetle – Copris lunaris, Dor Beetle – Geotrupes stercorarius, Burying Beetle – Nicrophorus humator, Burying Beetle – Nicrophorus investigator, Cockchafer – Melolontha melolontha, Cellar Beetle – Blaps mucranata, Rose Chafer – Cetonia aurata, Field Tiger Beetle – Cicindella campestris).

Box 1 containing British beetles and Box 4 British hoverflies; a Quiz and Task 2
Task 2 Find the imposters

The second box contained UK ladybirds: Seven-spot Ladybird – Coccinella septempunctata, Two-spot Ladybird – Adalia bipunctata, Eyed Ladybird – Anatis ocellata, Cream-spot Ladybird – Calvia quattuordecimguttata, and Harlequin Ladybird – Harmonia axyridis.

The third box had two non-UK beetles. Firstly, a Goliath Beetle (Goliaphus regius), found in the tropical regions of Africa, and secondly, a Hercules Beetle (Dynastes hercules), found in Central and Southern America.

Box 2 with UK ladybirds and Box 3 with two large beetles from the tropical regions and Task 1

The last box highlighted how mimicry is present in nature. This box contained wasp-mimicking hoverflies (Syrphidae) with the following text “These hoverflies are perfectly harmless and mimic wasps which have a nasty sting. All have yellow and black bodies, but some also have more subtle mimicry – when at rest wasps fold their wings along their bodies; hoverflies cannot do this, but in some species, the leading edge of the wing is darkened giving the impression that the wings are folded at rest. Other hoverflies are evolving longer antennae like their wasps’ models, and many adopt a zig-zag like flight to look even more like wasps!

Based on these boxes, two fun tasks were created to increase pupil engagement and independence. The first task was to list differences they could see between a Seven-spot Ladybird and a Hercules Beetle. This was an interactive task that got students thinking about how wide the biodiversity of beetles actually is. The second task, “Find the Imposters”, involved five images, three of them being wasps and two being wasp beetles. The pupils were asked to be detectives that can find the difference between the wasps and the beetles. This task introduced the topic of mimicry so that the pupils could see how some animals can be deceptive in their appearance and how hard it can be to tell the difference.

Using the educational resource

The educational resource was used in Hillcrest Academy, Leeds, on the 30th of March 2023 and obtained a lot of positive feedback from the teachers and pupils. Having the chance to see real-life Museum specimens up close was a new and exciting experience for many pupils. After giving the lesson, multiple students were motivated to visit the museum’s collection so they could see all the interesting specimens themselves. Alongside the interactive tasks, I made a presentation that described the beetles, and all the important ecological roles they play. The same boxes and activities were used in the Manchester Museum at the Earth Day Celebration on the 22nd of April 2023. Everyone that attended got to see how impressive beetles can get and got a chance to find the beetle imposters themselves.

Earth Day event at The Manchester Museum

Overall, the educational resource has been shown to be beneficial and useful in school and museum educational settings in the two trials. It has always been my hope to create an educational resource that can be used by anyone to educate the public about Coleopterans, and I hope that this resource starts to work towards that aim. If you are interested in either looking at or using the resource, please get in contact with the Museum. We are also interested in continuing to develop it to make it more accessible, so feedback from users is always welcome.

There is no better time to celebrate and recognise the support of museum volunteers, and particularly those in the Entomology during this Christmas festive season. While the Manchester Museum has been closed to visitors due to the “hello future project” (see here for more information), our volunteers have embarked on a different journey from the galleries to behind-the-scenes, showing the same enthusiasm and full dedication for the collections as they do to the museum visitors (see here the blogpost by Kate Glynn, Volunteer Manager).

During the last two years, since the Museum was closed, volunteers, usually in the galleries, have had the opportunity to support different collections and departments. They have played a key role in the Conservation Department helping to prepare the Japanese Incense Burner, which will become one of the central pieces in the newly built Museum’s entrance. Yet, in the Herbarium, they have been cataloguing plant specimens, transcribing labels with old, sometimes difficult to read handwriting, and bagging pressed plants to prevent the spreading of such biscuit beetles.

Since May 2022, the Entomology Department welcomed four enthusiastic volunteers. After an introduction given by Dmitri Logunov (former Curator of Arthropods) about possible tasks, our expectations and time required; it came as a big surprised when all the attendees decided to take up the challenge and to become part of the behind the scenes volunteer team. With no previous experience required, they were in good hands with full support from our small team along the way.

The Museum volunteers, Angharad, Niamh, Margaret and Vivien committed 4 hours per week, sometimes spending more time in the Entomology. They support re-arranging and documenting of the departmental archive, also and rehousing and databasing our spirit-preserved collections. A brief description of the tasks chosen by each volunteer is given below.

Angharad Denby has been rehousing Richard (Dick) Jones’ spider collection (around 10,000 tubes) acquired in 2017. This collection was re-curated and documented in 2019 but is still kept in small glass tubes with plastic stoppers in its original cabinet. However, a recent inspection revealed a high evaporation rate of the ethanol from sample tubes. It then became a priority to have this collection rehoused and stored more securely in the larger jars, in the spirit store. Angharad’s task is to change plastic stoppers of small glass tubes for cotton wool stoppers and to rehouse them in medium sized glass jars with clip-tops and airtight seals. She also conducts a similar task for Eric Duffey’s spider collection.

Angharad rehousing the identified and unidentified spiders from D. Jones’ collection

Niamh Roche has been supporting the digitization of the archive materials of Eric Duffey donated to the Museum by Rita Duffey (Eric’s widow). Eric was an ecologist and conservationist; he conducted spider faunas surveys in Britain and European regions. His archive contains long lists of species, habitats, maps from 1972, stories of spider bites and correspondence with other researchers. For more information about Eric’s legacy and life, see his obituary here.

Niahm documenting the archive of Eric Duffey

Vivien Mentern has been documenting a collection of European spiders donated by A. Russell-Smith. She is giving unique accession number to the samples, documenting species and specimens numbers and storing them more securely in clip-top jars after changing the plastic stopper to cotton wool ones. Her task will continue with the digitisation of the gained information to the Museum’s database.

Vivien working with samples of European spiders

Margaret McCadden has been digitizing beetle family (order Coleoptera) data from Colin Johnson (former Keeper of Entomology and British coleopterist). His archive contains species lists, many personal letters and documents, photographs and original beetle illustrations that were donated to the Museum by his family after Colin sadly passed away (see his obituary here). Margaret has made a digital list of the Manchester Museum Annual Reports from 1895 to 2003 also kept in the entomological archive. She also helps us to digitise the paperwork related to Acquisitions and Donations from 2004 to 2019.

Margaret digitising the acquisitions and donations received from 2004 to 2019

We would like to thank Phillip Rispin (former Curatorial Assistant and Honorary Curator) for his dedication to the collection and for sharing his knowledge and passion with visitors, researchers and volunteers.

Phil moving beetles specimens from a damaged box after a flooding in the Entomology store

We would also like to mention the work and commitment from the collection volunteers, many of them have gained experience in working with natural history collections and others have developed a real interest in insects. Many thanks to Beth Moran, Emily Hill, Piotr Korpak, James Jepson, Michael Pentland, Robert Tracey, Michael Dockery (Honorary Curator) and Libby (volunteered in Entomology for 3 months). The support given by all the volunteers will help us to better maintain and keep our entomological collections and increase their usefulness and value for various users.

View of the ‘Living Worlds’ gallery from stairs. © The Manchester Museum

The following text is the second part of our online tours around the Manchester Museum; the first tour is here. This time we are presenting a brief overview of the museum’s gallery called ‘Living Worlds’.

Fig. 1. Skeleton of a young Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) found dying on sea ice in Massachusetts in 1896, mounted by Harry Brazenor in 1898. The whale was suspended from the ceiling of the mammal gallery, where it became an iconic specimen, emblematic of the Museum as a whole. © The Manchester Museum

The ‘Living Worlds’ gallery sits at the heart of the oldest galleries of the Manchester Museum, which were purpose built to show their newly acquired natural history collections. The striking views of the cases and the balconies to the floors above are similar now to how they were in 1912, but without game trophies on its columns. The view includes the skeleton of the sperm whale, hanging suspended over the gallery floor after its discovery in Massachusetts in February 1896 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 2. Mounted Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus), taken as a flat skin from Arctic America to Dundee Museum by a whaling ship SS Eclipse around 1905, mounted by Harry Brazenor. Credit: Paul Cliff and the Manchester Museum

Despite the historic setting, the gallery today aims to move away from a traditional understanding of nature when it is presented as if existing in far off countries, separate from people. ‘Living Worlds’ puts people back into nature and describes its role in our everyday lives. Different ecosystems of our planet vary from polar lands to tropical forests, all full of life adapted to live in those conditions (Fig. 2). The life surrounding us could be viewed with fascination or fear, as something to exploit or to protect or as something to admire or to understand how it works (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. On the left: skull of ‘Old Billy’, the horse that lived near Manchester during 1760-1822. On the right: Oil painting of ‘Old Billy’ by Charles Towne, painted shortly before the horse died. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

Each case in Living Worlds takes a theme exploring one way in which people might connect with nature, either past of present. For example, the taxidermy tiger takes centre stage in a story about hunting for sport and trophy collecting. The tiger stands as if frozen in the moment of attack, telling us more about how the species was predominantly seen by Victorian society and about how the hunter wanted to be remembered, as a conqueror (Fig. 4). In comparison, other animals, such as those which came to the museum after living their lives at Belle Vue Zoo, are in poses which aim to show people how they may have behaved in life.

Fig. 4. Taxidermy of the Tiger (Panthera tigris) mounted in upright, pouncing position; from the ‘Domination’ case of the gallery. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

We all rely on nature in our daily lives. There are the very practical things, like food, clothing and shelter, but there are also less tangible ways we rely on nature. Having access to greenspaces and nature is known to help our own sense of wellbeing, helping us stay healthy, find a sense of place and of peace. We also use nature to help us communicate complex ideas about ourselves, our cultures and organisations. By a symbolic view of animals and plants we represent ourselves in the way we want to be seen or interpreted. The industrious and communal bee is the symbol of Manchester, whereas the bee has long been a universal symbol of ethical virtues, such as diligence, sociability, purity, wisdom, hard-work and community (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. An Ancient Greek coin (c. 387-295 BC) and Honey Bee. The bee symbolises Artemis, the goddess of wild animals, the hunt and childbirth; priestesses of the goddess were known as ‘honey bees’. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.
Fig. 6. Dodo model (Raphus cucullatus), based on modern research and interpretations. © Paul Cliff and The Manchester Museum.

Today, many animals and plants are threatened in the wild, and museum collections hold examples of species which are already extinct (Fig. 6). Human activities such as agriculture, deforestation or mining can make it hard or impossible for nature to find the space to thrive, or even to co-exist with us. Many charities, organisations and individuals work to keep ecosystems healthy and make room for wildlife. How we view nature and the choices we all make in our day-to-day lives all has an impact on the natural world around us (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7. Male and female taxidermy of Peregrines (Falco peregrinus) from the ‘British Wildlife’ case of the gallery. During the breeding season, this predatory bird can often be found above rocky sea cliffs and upland areas throughout the UK. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

View of the Nature’s Library gallery. © Dmitri Logunov

Manchester Museum is part of the University of Manchester and one of the UK’s leading university museums, holding more than 4.5 million objects and specimens, ranged across nature and culture. The Museum has eight main permanent galleries that reflect its main mission to build understanding between cultures and a more sustainable world. Here is a brief survey of the Museum’s gallery called ‘Nature’s Library’.

Figs. 1–2. On the left: Tens of thousands of soft-bodied organisms, like spiders, are preserved in 70% alcohol and are kept in jars in the hidden storerooms of the Manchester Museum. – On the right: Scallops (Pectenidae) exist in a stunning array of natural colours and patterns. It is believed that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, was born from a scallop shell. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

Natural history museum collections include specimens from zoology, botany, entomology, palaeontology and mineralogy, as well as documentation associated with them. Recent estimates suggest that the number of natural history specimens in British museums exceeds 100 million. The vast majority of such collections (c. 95%) are kept in storage, behind the scenes (Fig. 1: on the left). But does this mean that these collections are not used? Far from it, we care for these collections as an irreplaceable resource for research, education and inspiration. Natural history collections act as ‘libraries’, in which a separate specimen can be seen as a letter or word, and an individual collection as that of a paragraph or section in a giant ‘Book of Knowledge’. The Nature’s Library gallery why we have natural history collections, where they came from, why we continue to keep them and collect more, how such collections are used, and why are they still relevant today?

Fig. 3. Specimens of the Australian Rainforest Scorpion, Liocheles waigiensis (Gervais, 1843), were the first invertebrates ever acquired by the Manchester Museum on 15th January 1889. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

Natural history collections are the result of the curiosity and private passions of thousands of people, each with their own motivations for collecting. Living things, shells and rocks are often very beautiful or intriguing to look at, with endless variety of shapes, colours, patterns and textures (Fig. 1: on the right). Each specimen in the Museum is identified by a unique ‘accession number’. Information on each specimen is recorded in a Museum’s Register book and database. The Manchester Museum continues to collect, because collections have to be relevant to people and their needs today (Fig. 3).

Fig. 4. Today the red fox is familiar as a fellow city resident. Our taxidermy may have been made before foxes were common as urban wildlife, reminding us about how our cities can change and adapt to nature. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.
Fig. 5. Educational models allow students to explore the internal structure of plants and animals. They are made of papier-mache, wood, wire and fabric. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

The Manchester Museum is part of the University of Manchester, and has been open to the public since 1891. Thousands of schoolchildren, students and researchers use the Museum each year, for study, research and enjoyment (Fig. 4). The Museum is a unique place where visitors can see real objects, have access to experts and develop their own curiosity. Historic natural history collections are a rich resource of historical information about people, places and links to our colonial past. Designers and artists draw inspiration from their remarkable variety of forms, colours and patterns, exploring new ways of seeing and presenting the world around us. The Museum has about 250 enlarged models of plants and animals. These were used to teach students in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and are still used for outreach programmes and undergraduate teaching today (Fig. 5).

Fig. 6. Some of the organisms collected by the Challenger expedition from 362 sites around the world. About 4,700 new species were discovered as a result of this endeavour. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

The fundamental value of natural history collections is related to our understanding of the Earth’s diversity. The Manchester Museum holds large collections that were assembled by researchers who studied particular organisms and described new species. In the gallery you can find some of the thousands of specimens collected by HMS Challenger, during the first scientific expedition (1872-76) to explore the deep ocean (Fig. 6).

Fig. 7. Some lichens can survive in dirty air while others will only grow if the air is very clean, like this tree lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria). Where they live, and how this changes over time, tells us what is going on around us. © Michael Pollard and The Manchester Museum.

Natural history collections offer a unique opportunity for understanding the world around us, providing data over a vast time span ranging from millions of years ago (minerals and fossils) to the present day. These data reveal changes in environmental conditions and their consequences from deep time to within human history, and help us build up a better, sustainable future (Fig. 7).

A selection of the papers published in the last 2021-22 academic year, based on or containing references to specimens or collectors associated with Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department

This blogpost is the latest of the annual series summarizing publications based on Manchester Museum’s Entomology Collection over the last academic year. A total of 32 paper were published in the period between 1 August 2021 to 31 July 2022 referring to the specimens from our collection. Topics included the analysis of historical data, the support of conservation programs or ecological studies, and the legacy of collectors (including former Keeper of Entomology, Colin Johnson; Figure 1a). Descriptions of new species and accounts of particular MM’s arthropod collections are also presented. The publications were authored by more than 50 researchers from 12 countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Finland, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, India, Japan, South Africa and the UK), their list is given below.

The majority of the papers were devoted to descriptions of new species: viz., spiders from Spain, Portugal, Italy, UK, Russia, Ukraine, India, Nepal and Kenya; beetles from Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Zambia, China and Taiwan; and stick insects from Vietnam (Figure 1a). Over two thirds of the papers focused on spiders (Araneae), with the remaining third dealing with five other arthropod groups (Figure 1b).

Figure 1a. Topics and taxonomic groups covered in the publications
Figure 1b. Distribution of papers according to principal taxonomic groups

The value of sharing data from specimens

The MM’s Entomology Department was one of many natural history museums and societies supporting conservation initiatives. By gathering and using historical data from specimens and records of the Chequered skipper butterfly Carterocephalus palaemon (Pallas, 1771), Wildman et al. obtained a better understanding of how this species declined to extinction in England in 1976 and used this information to recommend conservation activities for other declining or endangered species. Records of this species, including those from the Manchester Museum, are now part of the Butterflies for the New Millennium (BNM) database created by Butterfly Conservation and the Biological Records Centre (BRC) (Wildman et al. 2022).

The updated checklist of four families of the order Diptera (Atelestidae, Brachystomidae, Empididae and Hybotidae) for Lancashire and Cheshire is not just a species list. Compiled by Phil Brighton using museum specimens and other sources, including local and national recording schemes, the paper includes relevant information on distribution, ecology, habitats requirements, and national and local conservation status. Data from the records and specimens assembled by former Museum’s Keepers, Harry Britten (from 1920 and 1950) and Alan Brindle (1950s), made a major contribution to this checklist (Brighton 2021).

News from the Entomology Department

Colin Johnson, the last person to hold the title Keeper of Entomology at the Manchester Museum (1982 – 2003) sadly passed away last year. Colin was an internationally renowned expert on beetles who described an amazing number of species new to science (especially tiny beetles of the family Ptiliidae, Cryptophagidae and Latriididae; for more information see in the blogpost “A life devoted to describing tiny beetles”). Colin contributed greatly to the expansion of the British Coleoptera at MM (92% of known British beetles are represented in the collection). An account on Colin’s work and legacy was compiled and published by his friend, Roger Dennis, in the obituary published by the Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine (Dennis 2022; Figure 2).

J. C. Otero & J. M. Pereira described Atomaria (Atomaria) johnsoni, a new species of the family Cryptophagidae from China, dedicated to Colin Johnson (Otero & Pereira 2022), making a total of 19 species named after him.

Figure 2. Colin Johnson visiting the Entomology Collection at Manchester Museum, 2004; credit: Dmitri Logunov.

Accounts of the Museum’s collections

  • A paper on the collections of mites and ticks (Acari) in the Manchester Museum, written by two of our honorary curators (Graham Proudlove and Laurence Cook) and the Curator of Arthropods (Dmitri Logunov), gives a brief account of the history of the collections and collectors (including the work of former Museum keepers and assistants). It is also includes an analysis of historical specimens and material acquired in the last decade, for the first time. This collection of 2900 slides preparations was recently recurated, documented and stored in the original standard Hill units and drawers (Proudlove et al. 2022; Figure 3a&b). This paper immediately started generating numerous enquires regarding this collection, which was never published before.
  • A publication regarding a small butterfly collection from Sierra Leone, given by Lieutenant Leech in 1895, explores not only the social life of the century and the colonial past, but also shares information on the natural heritage of west Africa. This collection had not previously been documented, apart from the handwritten labels. It contains 93 identified species of butterflies, moths and insects of various orders as well as other material. The specimens were collected between 1891 and 1893 in the vicinity of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, however there are uncertainties about collection localities for a group of specimens. Many butterflies were kept in triangular paper envelops (Figure 4a). The specimens have been mounted, labelled, identified and accessioned (Cook et al. 2022; Figure 4a&b).
  • In June 2022, a Special Issue (Vol 19) of Arachnology, edited by Dmitri Logunov, published 24 papers and proceedings from a symposium celebrating the life and legacy of John and Frances Murphy and Mike Roberts. Members of the British Arachnological Society (BAS), speakers from 39 countries and many spider enthusiasts, attended the online event. All symposium talks are available via the BAS YouTube channel. This volume contains eight papers based on the symposium presentations and 16 other contributions (freely available here).

Within the Special Issue, the scientific legacy of Murphy’s publications and archival material was analysed and summarised by Logunov (Logunov 2022a). This paper also includes a brief account of Frances and John’s life, fieldwork (Figure 5) and a brief description of the spider collection assembled over 45 years (Logunov 2022a; Arzuza Buelvas 2018). The Murphy Spider Collection and their archival materials are available at the Manchester Museum.

Figure 5. John and Frances Murphy collecting spiders in Singapore. Image published in Logunov 2022a

The issue also contained seven more taxonomy papers based on specimens of the Murphy spider collection (Azarkina 2022; Ballarin & Pantini 2022; Sherwood et al. 2022; Logunov 2022d; Pett 2022; Tanasevitch 2022; Zonstein & Marusik 2022). New species and a new genus from Kenya, and new species from Italy were described (Azarkina 2022; Ballarin & Pantini 2022; Pett 2022; Zonstein & Marusik 2022). The issue also contained an annotated catalogue of tarantulas (family Theraphosidae) retained at the Manchester Museum (Sherwood et al. 2022; Figure 6).

Figure 6. Figure 6. Tarantula Brachypelma sp. from Mexico. 2. Original educational display made by Robert Standen (former Assistant Keeper of Zoology, Manchester Museum, 1890–1925). 3-4. Views of the male palp). Published in Sherwood et al. 2022

Highlights of other papers and authors

  • Laurence Cook and Chris Shortall analysed the frequencies of melanic forms of three moths over the last century, including the melanic morph, carbonaria, of the Peppered Moth Biston betularia, using data of the Rothamsted Insect Survey. This industrial melanic morph was not present in the analysed data. However, the intermedia morph (Biston betularia insularia) and the industrial melanic forms of the Scalloped Hazel (Odontoptera bidentata) and the Pale Brindled Beauty (Apocheima pilosaria) were found widely over Britain. Possible reasons to this finding are discussed in the paper (Cook & Shortall, 2022).
  • Specimens of stick insects, genus Trachythorax, were used in a review of this taxonomic group. This project examined specimens from related taxa including type materials, records of images and data collected during citizen science initiatives and described stick insects new to science from Vietnam (Bresseell, J. & Constant, J. 2021; Figure 7).
Figure 7. Cover of the paper about stick insects from Vietnam, Bresseel & Constant 2021

A complete list of the publications:

  1. Azarkina, G. N. 2022. A new species of Aelurillus Simon, 1885 (Araneae: Salticidae) from Kenya. – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 220–223. https://www.britishspiders.org.uk/system/files/library/190013.pdf
  2. Azarkina, G. N., Pérez-Gómez A. & Sánchez-García I. 2022. Description of a stunning new species of Phlegra Simon, 1876 from southern Spain and redescription of an enigmatic Phlegra species from northern Africa (Araneae: Salticidae). – Zootaxa, 5162 (5): 557–575. doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5162.5.6 
  3. Ballarin, F. & Pantini, P. 2022. A synthesis of the genus Palliduphantes Saaristo & Tanasevitch, 2001 in Italy, with a description of two new species (Araneae, Linyphiidae, Micronetinae). – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 302–315. https://www.britishspiders.org.uk/system/files/library/190020.pdf
  4. Bresseell, J. & Constant, J. 2021. Review of the Oriental stick insect genus Trachythorax Redtenbacher, 1908 with two new species from Vietnam and comments on egg parasitism and morphological counteradaptations (Phasmida, Lonchodidae, Necrosciinae). – Belgian Journal of Entomology, 120: 1–56.
  5. Brighton, P. 2021. Report: The Diptera of Lancashire and Cheshire: Picture-wing Flies (Opomyzidae, Pallopteridae, Platystomatidae, Tephritidae, Ulidiidae). Version 1.0 December 2021. Lancashire and Cheshire Entomological Society, National Museum Liverpool, Manchester Museum, Tanyptera Trust, iRecord, NBN Atlas and the Dipterists Forum. Available here.
  6. Caleb, J. T. D., Sanap, R. V., Tripathi, R., Sampathkumar, M., Dharamaraj, J. & Packiam, S. M. 2022. Taxonomic notes on some South and Southeast Asian members of the genus Rhene Thorell, 1869 (Aranei, Salticidae, Dendryphantini). – Zootaxa, 5125 (4): 389–407. doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5125.4.3
  7. Cook, L., Dockery, M. & Logunov, D. V. 2022. The Lepidoptera collection from Sierra Leone of Lieutenant Ellis Leech in the Manchester Museum. – Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 158: 115–127.
  8. Cook, L. & Shortall, C. R. 2022. After carbonaria: melanic moth frequencies in the Rothamsted Insect Survey. – Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 20: 1–8.
  9. Crespo, L. C., Silva, I., Enguídanos, A., Cardoso, P., Arnedo, M. 2022. Island hoppers: Integrative taxonomic revision of Hogna wolf spiders (Araneae, Lycosidae) endemic to the Madeira islands with description of a new species. ZooKeys, 1086: 84–135. http://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1086.68015
  10. Déjean, S. & Danflous, S. 2021. Deux Scotinotylus (Araneae, Linyphiidae) nouveaux pour la faune de France. – Revue Arachnologique (2) 8: 18–25.
  11. Dennis R.L.H. 2022. Obituary Colin Johnson M.Sc., F.R.E.S. – 30 April 1943–25 August 2021. Keeper of Entomology at the Manchester Museum 1982–2003. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 158: 72–76. doi: 10.31184/M00138908.1581.4121
  12. Esyunin, S. L., Agafonova, O. V. & Ruchin, A. B. 2021. [Spider fauna (Aranei) of the Mordovian Reserve]. – Proceedings of the Mordovia State Nature Reserve 27: 53–133. (in Russian) 
  13. Gnelitsa, V. A. 2022. Entelecara Simon, 1884 species in Ukraine (Araneae: Linyphiidae). – Arachnology, 19(1): 46–62.
  14. Logunov, D. V. 2021a. Jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) of the Na Hang Nature Reserve, Tuyen Quang Province, Vietnam. – Arachnology, 18(9): 1021–1055. doi:10.13156/arac.2021.18.9.1021
  15. Logunov, D. V. 2021b. New species and records of the jumping spiders from India and Nepal (Aranei: Salticidae). – Arthropoda Selecta, 30(3): 351–361. doi:10.15298/arthsel.30.3.08 
  16. Logunov D. V. 2022a. John Alan Murphy (1922–2021) and his contribution to arachnology. – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 77–103.
  17. Logunov D. V. 2022b. Literature review: Suomen Hyppyhämähäkit. Katso silmiin ja ihastu! The Jumping Spiders of Finland. Look into their eyes and fall in love! (by Sami Karjalainen). – Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society, 154: 10–11.
  18. Logunov D. V. 2022c. Literature review: All You Need to Know About Spiders (by Wolfgang Nentwig, Jutta Ansorg, Angelo Bolzern, Holger Frick, Anne-Sarah Ganske, Ambros Hänggi, Christian Kropf and Anna Stäubli). – Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society, 154: 13–15.
  19. Logunov D. V. & Sherwood D. 2022. A resounding success: The John Murphy and Mike Roberts Memorial Symposium – Great Names in British and World Arachnology, 3 December 2021. Arachnology Letters, 63: i–iv.
  20. Logunov, D. V., Tripathi, R. & Jangid, A.K. 2022. First record of Pseudomogrus Simon, 1937 (Araneae: Salticidae) from India, with description of a new species. – Arachnology, 19(1): 72–76.
  21. Sherwood D., Logunov D. V. & Gabriel R. 2022. An annotated catalogue of the theraphosid spiders held in the collections of the Manchester Museum (Araneae: Theraphosidae). – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 209–219.
  22. Logunov D. V. 2022d. On four species of Irura Peckham & Peckham, 1901 (Araneae: Salticidae) collected by John and Frances Murphy from south-east Asia. – Arachnolog,y 19(Special Issue): 229–237. 
  23. Matsumoto, K. 2021. New species, new records and notes of Afrotropical Chaetophora Kirby & Spence, 1817 (Coleoptera: Byrrhidae: Syncalptinae). – Zootaxa, 5067(2): 211–223. doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5067.2.3 
  24. Otero, J. C., Pereira Martínez, J. M. 2022. New species of Atomaria Stephens, 1829 (Coleoptera, Cryptophagidae) from China and Taiwan – Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, 25: 101872; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aspen.2022.101872 
  25. Pett, B. L. 2022. Two new species of dark sac spiders of the genus Patelloceto Lyle & Haddad, 2010 (Trachelidae) from Kenya. – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 224–228. 
  26. Proudlove, G., Cook, L. & Logunov, D. V. 2022. Mites (Acari) in the Manchester Museum: Curators and a committee. – Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 158: 9–27. doi: 10.31184/M00138908.1581.4120 
  27. Sherwood, D. & Logunov D. V. 2022. The John Murphy and Mike Roberts Memorial Symposium – Great Names in British and World Arachnology, 3rd December 2021. Newsletter of the British Arachnological Society, 153: 4–6.
  28. Stenhouse, D. A. 2021. Report: The status and distribution of the leaf beetle Bromius obscurus (Linnaeus, 1758) in Cheshire in 2019 and 2020. National Museum Liverpool and Tanyptera Trust.
  29. Tanasevitch, A. V. 2022. Revision of the Murphy collection of Linyphiidae (Araneae) from south-east Asia. – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 199–208. 
  30. Wildman, J. P., Ollerton, J., Bourn, N. A. D., Brereton, T. M., Moore, J. L. & McCollin, D. 2022. The value of museum and other uncollated data in reconstructing the decline of the chequered skipper butterfly Carterocephalus palaemon (Pallas, 1771). – Journal of Natural Science Collections, 10: 31–44. https://www.natsca.org/article/2724
  31. Zamani, A., Nadolny, A. A., Esyunin, S. L. & Marusik, Yu. M. 2021. New data on the spider fauna of Iran (Arachnida: Araneae), part VIII. – Zoosystematica Rossica, 30(2): 279–297. doi:10.31610/zsr/2021.30.2.279
  32. Zonstein, S. L. & Marusik Yu. M. 2022. Descriptions of Sceliraptor gen. n. and two new species from Kenya (Araneae, Palpimanidae). – Arachnology, 19(Special Issue): 257–264.


Written by Piotr Korpak, Visitor Team Assistant, Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester.

Last August saw the Manchester Museum entering the final phase of its capital project called hellofuture when it closed to the public for over a year, until February 2023. Major redevelopments like this tend to be quite stressful for most institutions, but also bring a lot of excitement and many valuable opportunities for individuals. Being closed to the public meant no visitors and so I was able to support work in other departments. Always interested in natural history collections, I welcomed the chance to work with the Curatorial Team in the Entomology Department with true delight.

The Museum’s arthropod collections are amongst the top three in the UK, with over 3 million specimens, out of which about 2.5 million are insects (Logunov and Merriman, 2012). As is the case with many museums, the collections are…

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Banner of the Springwatch Event at Royton Linear Park, May 2022

On Sunday 15th May 2022, as part of the event “Springwatch” organized by the community group called ‘Friends of Royton Linear Park’, Dmitri and I were invited to participate and talk about insects. The main idea was to develop interest in wildlife among local residents of this park in Oldham, which used to be a railway track.

The weather was perfect and the event itself was really a success. As soon as we set up our display table, some 40 minutes earlier than the official opening of the actual event, many interested visitors started to appear and engage with us. We shared stories about British insects, habitats and facts about their life cycles and natural histories, as well as showing some British endangered species and, of course, some showy foreign beauties. Other organizations, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – RSPB with birdwatching activity for kids and families, also supported this event. The hedgehog conservation group was talking about chances to create a more attractive environment for hedgehogs and discussing them with the local recording group.

The day was packed with many other activities for adults and children, including craft making, face painting and even tree-planting. There were also stalls with home-baked cakes, plants and goodies for selling, all towards fundraising for the maintenance of the Royton Linear Park.

This community group was established a year ago and have been working to keep this area free of litter/wastes and more family friendly. There are plans for different sections of the park, including incorporating art in tunnels and bridges. However, the most ambitious plan is to create a wildlife corridor connecting this linear park with other green areas/spaces in Oldham and Rochdale; ultimately, improving this green space for the benefit of the local residents and wildlife.

Local residents attending the “Springwatch” event at Royton Linear Park and enjoying the weather

Many thanks are due to Shirley Brown (the leader and organizer of the group and the event) for inviting us to participate. We were thrilled by positive responses from the visitors and amazed by how many people visited the Manchester Museum and remembered our Spider Crab.

If anyone reading this post wants to be involved and support Shirley Brown and her small group of enthusiasts, just join the Friends of Royton Linear Park on Facebook.

Specimens of the collection of tortoise beetles (Cassidinae) from the Manchester Museum; those marked with pink and blue labels are types. © The Manchester Museum.

When a taxonomist is going to name a new species, s/he must designate a particular specimen as the reference standard of that species. Such specimen – one particular butterfly, pressed plant or mineral – is called the name-bearing type (=holotype). It is permanently associated with the published scientific name and official description of the species. Type specimens serve as the primary and unique references for all known species names. They play a key role in stabilizing the use of species names. The type must be unambiguously designated, because it is required for identifying other specimens or validating the use of a name. Types are deposited in reliable natural history museums, properly cared for and made available to researchers that need to examine them.

Similarly to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures which establishes a common understanding of such units as length, mass, time, electric current and others, natural history museums keep type specimens to provide unequivocally links to species names. A number of the type specimens in a particular museum reflects its scientific significance and international standing. The Manchester Museum holds some 22,000 types representing over 8,000 species names, and the number of the types is growing. The Museum is one of the most important taxonomic depositaries in the UK.

Traditionally, type specimens are kept in behind-the-scenes stores of natural history museums and never displayed. Their primary role is to support taxonomic research. Below a selection of type specimens from different collections of the Manchester Museum is presented.

The holotype of Rufous-backed Shrike (Lanius lama), one of the names under which Grey-backed Shrike (Lanius tephronotus) has been known; the bird is known from Tibet. © The Manchester Museum.
Type specimens of three corals: syntype of the hydrocoral Errina capensis from costal waters off Cape of Good Hope (left), syntype of the stony coral Stylasterina tiliatus from Pacific Ocean, Sulu islands (middle), and the holotype of the hydrocoral Errina novaezelandiae (red coral) from waters off New Zealand (right). © The Manchester Museum.
Holotypes of the liverworts described by Richard Spruce (1817-1893). © The Manchester Museum.
Holotype of wooldridgeite, a mineral containing calcium, copper, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sodium; named after James Wooldridge (1923-1995), a keen amateur from Worcestershire (UK) who discovered the material. © The Manchester Museum.
The female holotype of the species Dysaulophthalma nathani, described from the re-curated Indian collection of mantises (Mantodea). © The Manchester Museum

Well, the work of a taxonomist could apparently be compared even to that of a detective.

James Jepson working with Manchester Museum’s collection of Neuroptera. © The Manchester Museum.

The Manchester Museum welcomes all kinds of visitors: art and design students, members of local natural history organisations, school and college students, family groups, etc. Yet, about half of our visitors are researchers working on many interesting, often inter-disciplinary projects. For instance, Dr James Jepson (on photo) is a palaeontologist from the University of Manchester, looking at the evolution of insects, in addition to studying the evolution of lacewings and their allies (order Neuroptera). He is also involved in studying these insects in Cheshire and Lancashire and is responsible for the national recording scheme of these insects. Below is James’ brief report on what he does and how he uses the Manchester Museum’s insect collections.


I have the pleasure of regularly visiting the entomology collections at the Manchester Museum to gather data for three projects that I am currently undertaking. The first being part of my postdoctoral research on insect relationships and evolution. I am using the specimens in the collection to code morphological characters, which I will then use to create a phylogeny to show the relationships of extant and fossil insect orders. From this phylogeny, I will be able to investigate the evolution of insects throughout geological time, from their beginnings to the present day.

The second project relates to the British Isles Lacewing and Allies Recording Scheme. I have recently become the co-organizer of the scheme, which we relaunched earlier this year. The scheme takes in records of the orders Neuroptera (Lacewings, Waxflies, Antlions & Spongeflies), Raphidioptera (Snakeflies), Megaloptera (Alderflies) and Mecoptera (Scorpionflies & Snowfleas) found in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. If you want to know more about the scheme, and how you can contribute, please visit our website. At the museum, I am documenting the collection of British lacewings and allies in the collection for addition into the recording schemes database. Museum collections hold very important data not only on recently collected specimens but also on specimens collected in the past. These historical collections give us information on past distributions of species and can help us assess any changes that have happened over time.

The final project is looking at the museum’s collection of Neuropterida (Neuroptera, Raphidioptera, Megaloptera). In addition to the British specimens, I will also be looking at specimens from other countries, like India, Costa Rica, and others. I will be putting a name to the unidentified specimens and checking the identity of the others to take into account recent changes in neuropterid taxonomy. It is always an enjoyable experience visiting the collections at Manchester Museum; the staff are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and always very helpful.

In the traditional Chinese calendar, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. In Chinese culture, tiger is the king of all beasts, symbolizing power, majesty and beauty. Let us to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year 2022 with a selection of ‘tiger insects’ from the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Collection. In this blogpost, a few examples of tiger-like colour patterns in moths and butterflies and tiger-like predatory behaviour in some amazing beetles are presented.

Warning colouration

A tiger’s bold pattern of bright orange body coloration with dark stripes makes them less visible to their prey (it is the so-called disruptive colouration). On the other hand, the conspicuous dark and orange colouration of some moths and butterflies is a clear warning signal to predators. This is the case of the adults of the Garden tiger moth or Great tiger moth Arctia caja. When threatened, this moth can release neurotoxin, making it inedible.

The Garden tiger moth was one of the favourite moths for early collectors who were interested in creating unusual coloration patterns. This species is now protected in the UK; its population has declined by 89% over the past 30 years.

The Harmonia tiger-wing or Harmonia tiger Tithorea harmonia shows the pattern of a toxic butterfly. This species is one of the common and most widespread of the toxic ‘tiger-like’ species that can be found from Mexico to South America. Its larvae feed on Prestonia acutifolia (Apocynaceae), a plant with toxins, and pass the poisons to adults. When eaten by predators, this butterfly leaves an unpleasant taste.

The Tiger butterfly or Striped Tiger Danaus genutia is a very common species throughout India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, South-East Asia, and Australia (except New Guinea). It has the same appearance as the famous Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus of the Americas. When the wings are open, both female and male show an orange or yellow-brownish coloration with black venation. Its larvae obtain toxins from plants, which also leave an unpleasant smell and taste to their predators when the adult is eaten.

Tiger butterfly Danaus genutia – Entomology, Manchester Museum

Aggressive predators and fast runners

Tiger beetles are known for their running speed and their aggressive predatory habits, just like true tigers. It is a large group of some 2600 (sub)species of the subfamily Cincidelinae. Their characteristics include large eyes, long legs adapted for sprinting, and a striking pair of curved and toothed mandibles (=jaws) for catching prey (see video here). The Tiger beetle species Rivacindela hudsoni from Australian deserts is considered the fastest insect in the world, with a running speed of 9 km/hr (120 beetle body lengths per second). More about Tiger beetle adaptations and characteristics here and here.

Tiger beetles lay their eggs in the sand. After hatching, the larvae dig a tunnel and wait in ambush in the tunnel’s mouth for any small invertebrates passing by. The larvae strike and catch their prey with powerful jaws (see video here). Such voracious larvae are known in all species of tiger beetles.

The larva of the Six-spotted green tiger beetle Cicindela sexguttata waiting for its prey. Photo: Katja Schulz Wikispecies: Rivacindela hudsoni
Adults of the Six-spotted green tiger beetle Cicindela sexguttata from North America – Entomology, Manchester Museum

There are five tiger beetle species in Britain, of which the Green tiger beetle Cicindela campestris is the only widespread and common. It is an agile hunter, catching invertebrates, especially spiders, caterpillars and ants. It can be recognised by long bronze legs, metallic green body colouration, and yellow spots on the wing cases.

The Wood tiger beetle or Heath tiger beetle Cicindela sylvatica is the largest tiger beetle in Britain, with dark/brown colouration and three or four pale yellow marks on its wings. Half of the population of the Heath tiger beetle has disappeared in the last 25 years in the UK due to habitat loss. This species is under priority status on the Biodiversity Action Plan.

Wood tiger beetle or Heath tiger beetle Cicindela sylvatica – Entomology, Manchester Museum
A selection of the papers published in the last academic year 2020-21, based on or containing references to specimens from the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department

This blog is the third one of the annual series devoted to the publications based on or referred to the Manchester Museum’s entomology collections in the last academic year. During the period from 1st August 2020 to 31th July 2021, a total of 23 papers were published by 21 researchers from 13 countries (including the UK, Russia, Ukraine, Finland, Greece, Bulgaria, Germany, Iran, China, Italy, Costa Rica, Honduras and the US). Despite (inter)national lockdowns, travel cutbacks and limited access to the collection store due to the Covid-related restrictions, the Entomology department was able to continue to support research.

The majority of the authors are associated with universities or museums, for example: Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università di Firenze (Italy); Museo de Zoología, Universidad de Costa Rica; Zoological Museum, University of Turku (Finland); University of Nebraska State Museum (US); Department of Invertebrate Zoology of the Tomsk State University (Russia); the Altai State University (Russia) and the Manchester Museum and School of Biological Sciences – Faculty of Biology, University of Manchester (UK). Other authors are affiliated with academic research institutes (e.g., Institute for Biological Problems of the North, the Russian Academy of Sciences) and one author is from the Hong Kong Entomological Society (China).

Taxa and topics

The main topic covered in these publications included the taxonomy: viz., taxonomic reviews of various taxa (some 40%), descriptions of new species (30%), and new faunistic records (18%). Less frequent topics were ecology, morphology, surveys, book reviews and memorabilia (Figure 1).

The majority of the papers (60%) were focused on spiders (the order Araneae). Taxonomic reviews, including descriptions of new species and new synonymy, were the main topics of 14 publications. More than 80 new species were described, particularly from Central and South Asia (Figure 2). New information on species records and distribution from India, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, and Sri Lanka was given.

Two papers for each of the following orders were published: Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Phasmatodea (stick insects). The Coleoptera papers focused on descriptions of new species and new faunistic records of the feather-winged beetles, and the ecology of one Neotropical species of the tortoise beetles. A single paper of butterflies was devoted to morphology in two subspecies of the European Swallowtail butterfly; there is also a review of an ‘Illustrated History of Butterflies of the Afrotropical Indian Ocean Islands’. Two papers devoted to stick insects included a description of new species from Vietnam and new records from China. A complete list of publications is given below.

Figure 1. Topics covered by the 2020-21 publications using specimens from the Entomology Department, Manchester Museum

Geographical scope

Publications based on Manchester Museum’s specimens contributed to the knowledge of entomofaunas in 32 countries from such regions as the Middle East, Central, South and South-East Asia, Europe (including the UK) and the Neotropics (Costa Rica). The highest number of publications is devoted to Central Asia (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Number of the publications per country of origin of the studied specimens included in the 2020-21 papers related to the Manchester Museum Entomology Collection

Highlight of papers and authors

  • Dmitri Logunov (Curator of the Arthropods Collection, Manchester Museum) made a major contribution as the author of 11, or nearly a half the papers published in this academic year. Most of his papers (70%) were dedicated to the taxonomy of spiders (order Araneae). Dr. Logunov diagnosed, described and illustrated 37 new species of spiders from India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, as well as from other countries in the Mediterranean and the Middle East (Figure 3). Other publications included the jubilee article on Dr A.A. Zyuzin (an arachnologist and his colleague), marking his 70th anniversary, work and achievement (Logunov, 2021c).
Figure 3. Jumping spider male of Chalcovietnamcus naga, the new species from the Philippines described by D. Logunov (from Figures 1-10, Logunov, 2020b)
  • Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences (University of Manchester) measured British and European specimens of the Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon) to determine if sexual selection was responsible for the “tail length” (elongated part of the hindwings) in this species. It seems that the length of the tail is more related to avoiding predators and does not exhibit sexual dimorphism (Koutrouditsou & Nudds, 2021; Figure 4).
Figure 4. Measurements to assess relative size of ‘tails’ in Swallowtail Butterfly (from Figure 1, Koutrouditsou & Nudds, 2021)
  • Two new species of the rove-beetles of the genus Metolinus (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae), based on unpublished materials from the Horace Last Collection were finally described (Figure 5). These descriptions were published along with new records of this scarce genus in Papua New Guinea (Bordoni, 2021).
Figure 5. Two new species of the genus Metolinus (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae) recently published from specimens at Manchester Museum (from Figure 7 & 8, Bordoni, 2021)
  • The holotype of Calyptocephala attenuata (Spaeth, 1919) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae: Spilophorini) from Costa Rica (Figure 6) accompanied with a description of a new host plant and further information of the natural history of this poorly known tortoise beetle from Costa Rica (Nishida & Chaboo, 2020).
Figure 6. The Holotype of Calyptocephala attenuata from Costa Rica, held in the Manchester Museum (from Figure 4, Nishida & Chaboo, 2020)
  • Specimens of sticks insects (order Phasmatodea) from Manchester Museum were used in a taxonomic review of this group in Vietnam and China. In the two papers, eight new species and two new genera were described, as well as new synonyms and records from China (Ho, 2020; Ho, 2021).

A complete list of publications:

  1. Bordoni A. (2021). New data on the Australasian Xantholinini (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Xantholininae) 13. Two new species of Metolinus from New Guinea of the Manchester Museum and new records. 305° contribution to the knowledge of the Staphylinidae. – Boll. Mus. reg. Sci. nat. Torino, 38(1-2): 23-29
  2. Fomichev A.A. & Marusik, Y. M. (2020). Five new species of the Acantholycosa-complex (Araneae: Lycosidae) from Mongolia. – Zootaxa, 4497 (2): 271–284. doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4497.2.7 
  3. Ho, W.C. (2020) New taxa of Clitumninae from Vietnam (Phasmatodea: Phasmatidae). – Zoological Systematics, 45(2): 104-117. http://doi: 10.11865/zs.202015
  4. Ho, W.C. (2021) Contribution to the knowledge of Chinese Phasmatodea IX: First report of Xeroderinae (Phasmatodea: Phasmatidae) from China. – Zoological Systematics, 46(2): 187-190. http://doi: 10.11865/zs.2021205
  5. Koutrouditsou L.K. & Nudds R.L. (2021). No evidence of sexual dimorphism in the tails of the swallowtail butterflies Papilio machaon gorganus and P. m. britannicus. – Ecology and Evolution, 11: 4744-4749. doi: 10.10 02/ece3.7374 
  6. Logunov, D.V. (2020a). Further notes on the genus Stenaelurillus Simon, 1885 from India (Arachnida: Araneae: Salticidae). – Zootaxa, 4899(1): 201-214. http://doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4899.1.11 
  7. Logunov, D.V. (2020b). New and poorly known leaf-litter dwelling jumping spiders from South-East Asia (Araneae, Salticidae: Euophryini and Tisanibini). – Arachnology, 18(6): 521-562. 
  8. Logunov, D.V. (2020c). On three species of Hogna Simon, 1885 (Aranei: Lycosidae) from the Near East and Central Asia. – Arthropoda Selecta, 29(3): 349-360. 
  9. Logunov, D.V. (2021a). Literature review: An Illustrated History of Butterflies of the Afrotropical Indian Ocean Islands (by James M. Lawrence & Mark C. Williams). – Antenna, online at: https://www.royensoc.co.uk/sites/default/files/Review_An%20Illustrated%20History%20of%20Butterflies%20of%20the%20Afrotropical%20Indian%20Ocean%20Islands.pdf 
  10. Logunov, D.V. (2021b). Literature review: True Bugs of the World (Hemiptera: Heteroptera) Classification and Natural History (2nd edition) (by Randall T. Schuh & Christiane Weirauch). – Antenna, online at: https://www.royensoc.co.uk/sites/default/files/Review_True%20Bugs%20of%20the%20World%20Classification%20and%20Natural%20History%202nd%20ed.pdf 
  11. Logunov, D.V. (2021c). [Alexei Alexandrovich Zyuzin – 70 years]. – Arthropoda Selecta, 30(1): 133-141. (in Russian) 
  12. Logunov, D.V. (2021d). Further notes on the jumping spiders (Araneae: Salticidae) of Afghanistan. – Arachnology, 18(8): 821-828. 
  13. Logunov, D.V. (2021e). Notes on the genus Chinattus Logunov, 1999 from India, Pakistan and Nepal (Arachnida: Araneae: Salticidae). – Zootaxa, 5006 (1): 110-120. http://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5006.1.15 
  14. Logunov, D.V. (2021f). On three species of Plexippoides Prószyński, 1984 (Araneae: Salticidae) from the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia, with notes on a taxonomic validity of the genus. – Arachnology, 18(7): 766-777. http://doi:10.13156/arac.2020.18.7.766 
  15. Logunov, D.V. & Fomichev A.A. (2021). A new species of Karakumosa Logunov & Ponomarev, 2020 (Araneae: Lycosidae: Lycosinae) from Tajikistan. – Arachnology, 18(7): 677-680. http://doi:10.13156/arac.2020.18.7.677 
  16. Logunov, D.V. & Ponomarev, A.V. (2020). Karakumosa gen. nov., a new Central Asian genus of fossorial wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae: Lycosinae). – Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 127(2): 275-313. http://doi:10.35929/RSZ.0021
  17. Marusik, Y. M. & Nadolny, A. A. (2020). On the identity of Trochosa hispanica (Araneae, Lycosidae), with notes on the synonymy of West Palaearctic “Trochosa” species. – Zootaxa, 4859(1): 56-80. http://doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4859.1.2
  18. Nishida K. & Chaboo C. (2020). A new host plant family for Cassidinae sensu lato: Calyptocephala attenuata (Spaeth, 1919) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae: Spilophorini) on Smilax (Smilacaceae) in Costa Rica. – The Pan-Pacific Entomologist, 96(4):263–267. 
  19. Tchemeris A.N. (2020). Remarkable new species of epedanid from Vietnam (Arachnida: Opiliones: Laniatores: Epedanidae). – Zootaxa, 4858 (3): 427–437. http://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4858.3.8 
  20. Zamani, A., Chatzaki, M., Esyunin, S. L. & Marusik, Y. M. (2021). One new genus and nineteen new species of ground spiders (Araneae: Gnaphosidae) from Iran, with other taxonomic considerations. – European Journal of Taxonomy, 751: 68-114. http://doi:10.5852/ejt.2021.751.1381 
  21. Zamani, A., Dimitrov, D., Weiss, I., Alimohammadi, S., Rafiei-Jahed, R., Esyunin, S. L., Moradmand, M., Chatzaki, M. & Marusik, Y. M. (2020). New data on the spider fauna of Iran (Arachnida: Araneae), part VII. – Arachnology, 18(6): 569-591. http://doi:10.13156/arac.2020.18.6.569 
  22. Zamani, A. & Marusik, Y. M. (2020). A survey of Phrurolithidae (Arachnida: Araneae) in southern Caucasus, Iran and Central Asia. – Zootaxa, 4758(2): 311-329. http://doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4758.2.6 
  23. Zamani, A. & Marusik, Y. M. (2021). Revision of the spider family Zodariidae (Arachnida, Araneae) in Iran and Turkmenistan, with seventeen new species. – ZooKeys, 1035: 145-193. http://doi:10.3897/zookeys.1035.65767

A specimen of the Apple Maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella) of the family of Fruit Flies (Tephritidae, or here) from the collection of the Manchester Museum photographed by means of our new Olympus stereo microscope and digital camera. © The Manchester Museum.

A month ago, thanks to the CapCo grant, the Manchester Museum purchased a new stereo microscope (Olympus, SZX 16) with a digital colour camera (DP27-CU-1-2), which is designed for photographing small and diminutive objects. Two weeks ago, we had a training session and here is the first image taken by means of this microscope and camera (see above). We are about ready to start a large project aimed at the digitisation of tens of thousands of diminutive insects, including type specimens of the Feather-winged Beetles (Cryptophagidae), Fungus Beetles (Latridiidae) and many other small-sized groups, deposited in the Manchester Museum.

A training session on how to capture images; a diminutive shell is on the screen. © Diana Arzuza Buelvas.
Taking photo of the jumping spider Colopsus longipalpis from Vietnam. © Diana Arzuza Buelvas.

Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata) from the collection of the Manchester Museum; its sting is arrowed. © Manchester Museum.

Many species of ants (family Formicidae) hold a great fascination for the human from the ancient time. For instance, Pliny the Elder believed that ants are the only living creatures besides man that bury their dead. Ants have been greatly admired for the qualities of intelligence, hard work, good organisation, and harmonious social life. Moral lessons for mankind were frequently drawn from various aspects of their behaviour. In the Old Testament, one can find the following wisdom: ‘Go to the any thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise: which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest’. Ant colonies in their anthills could be seen as both a microcosm of man and his world, and a positive example of communal cooperation. However, not all ants have acquired such a positive reputation among humans, some of them are feared: e.g., the Bulldog Ant (Myrmecia sp.), or the African Driver Ants (Dorylus spp.), which sometimes are depicted as merciless invaders that consume all creatures in their path, especially in Hollywood horror movies; for general information about myrmecophobia (=fear of ants) see here.

One of the feared ant species is the Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata), a large black ant that can reach a length up to 2-3 cm (see photo). It is the largest ant of Central and South Americas, known from the Caribbean lowlands of such countries as Honduras and Costa Rica, southward to Peru and Brazil. Ants live in large subterranean colonies with the entrances situated at the base of large trees. Each colony contains from 700 to 1400 worker ants: i.e., members of the worker caste, all are infertile females. Workers are solitary hunters that search for their prey (various smaller insects) from ground level up to the canopy, and can be seen and encountered during both day- and night times; for more information about Bullet Ant see here and here.

This ant should be avoided as it can inflict an extremely painful sting (its sting is arrowed in the photo above). The venom of the Bullet Ant contains poneratoxin, a neuropeptide causing an acute pain and local paralysis, but not fatal to humans. The regional name of Paraponera clavata in Costa Rica is ‘hormiga bala’, meaning ‘bullet ant’. People who have been stung by this ant say that its bite feels like a bullet wound, or even like a 3-inch burning rusty nail in your heel; the pain can last for 24 or more hours, and a person may need 2 weeks to recover from a single sting. If someone scored various stinging insects like bees, wasps and ants on a pain scale from 1 to 4, еру Bullet Ant would surely get the highest, 4-point score. Hence, it is hardly surprising that Native Americans of the Yurok tribe in California believe that ants became venomous by catching chips in their mouths from a mythical burning arrowhead. In Brazil, members of the indigenous tribe Satere-Mawe, who reside along the border between the Pará and Amazonas states in Brazil, use Bullet Ants and their painful stings in a ceremony of initiating young men into adulthood; watch the video below.

Despite some undeniably negative qualities (from the point of view of humans, of course) that can be attributed to bullet ants, the ant still inspires some naturalists to poetize them. Here is the latest limerick dedicated to the Bullet Ant by Richard A. Jones (2021):

The bullet ant feared no attacker,

Because with her sting she fought backer.

The venom she dealt

Was the worst to be felt –

A true hypodermic fire-cracker.

References and further reading:

Henderson C. L. 2010. Butterflies, moths, and other invertebrates of Costa Rica. Austin, University of Texas Press, 173 pp.

Jones R. A. & Ure-Jones C. 2021. A natural history of insects in 100 limericks. Pelagic Publishing, 110 pp.

Kritsky G. & Cherry R. 2000. Insect Mythology. Writers Club Press, 140 pp.

Sleigh C. 2003. Ant. Reaktion Book, 216 pp.

Stories from the Museum Floor

In this week’s Story from the Museum Floor Visitor Team member Piotr continues his fascinating exploration of the intersection between Entomology and early film making through the pioneering work of Władysław Starewicz.

Check out the first part of the story here. And for more on our entomology collections have a look at the Curator’s blog.

Out of the real world he created the world of fantasy

When World War I started in the summer of 1914, Russia was separated from the rest of Europe by the German frontline. Since foreign films were unavailable, there was a huge demand on the local filmmaking industry. The so called Skobelev Committee got the monopoly on producing war reels, but the same organisation also established a fiction film department. Film directors working for the studio were given exemption from military service, which may have been the reason why Starewicz joined the Committee…

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Stories from the Museum Floor

In this week’s Story from the Museum Floor, Piotr from the Visitor Team explores the fascinating intersection between Entomology and early film making through the pioneering work of Władysław Starewicz.

For more on our Entomology collections please take a look the Curator’s blog.

Back from the Dead

Another year has passed and the Paper pumpkins, grinning at us as they hang from the trees are now several months behind us. Back in the Halloween season of 2019 we had a very successful screening of The Nightmare before Christmas  here at the Museum in our Living Worlds gallery. Conceived and produced by Tim Burton, and directed by Henry Selick, this 1993 classic has been attracting new audiences and enjoying a  cult following since its first release, more than 27 years ago. What I am also sure of is that probably very few people will wonder where and how it all…

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To celebrate the 2021 Year of the Ox in the Chinese calendar, we have chosen the Ox Beetle (Strategus aloeus) as a star object from the Manchester Museum’s Entomology collection. It is a species of the rhinoceros beetles from the family Scarabaeidae from the Americas. The male Ox Beetle has three characteristic horns on its thorax, two at the back and the longer one at the front, resembling Triceratops. This species is also called Elephant Beetle, Hercules beetle or Escarabajo Buey (in Spanish).

Male of the Ox Beetle. © Julián-Caballero C. Camilo

Adults of the Ox beetle can grow up to 2.5-3.8 cm long and live four to six months only. They feed mainly on various fruits and flowers, and are very active during the breeding season from May to November. Interestingly, the male Ox Beetles have two varieties, “major” and “minor”. Major males have three large horns on the thorax used for mating competitions. Minor males have shorter horns. Female Ox Beetles have a small raised area (a very short horn) used mainly for digging, not for fighting. Females lay their eggs in rotten wood or roots on sandy soil, with dried leaves sometimes added to maintain the right temperature and secure hatching.

Female Ox Beetle from the Entomology collection of the Manchester Museum. © The Manchester Museum

Larvae or grubs of Ox Beetles feed on roots with their powerful mandibles. Larvae are about 5 cm in size when curled, double if straightened. The larval stage takes about 4-6 months to develop into a pupal stage and almost a year to develop into an adult. Pupation may be affected by weather conditions, but this stage can be shortened when maintained in warmer environments (for example, when bred in captivity, for a manual see here).

This species is the largest and most common beetle found in the south-west part of the USA, from Arizona to Florida. It occurs throughout Central America and in parts of South America (especially in Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil).

Records of the Ox Beetle in the Americas; based on Naturalista Colombia.

Larvae of Ox Beetles are considered pests, causing damage to plantations and gardens. For example, in Colombia, larvae affect recently planted oil palms due to the use of large amount of decomposing material as part of the planting process. In Mexico, larvae can affect new plantations of Blue Agave, Agave tequilana, a key ingredient of tequila. However, adults and larvae of the Ox Beetle also play a vital role in recycling organic matter in tropical ecosystems.

More information and resources:

Selection of papers published in the last academic year (1 August 2019 – 31 July 2020)

This post is the next of a series of blog posts summarizing research that is partly or completely based on the Manchester Museum’s entomology collections. During the last academic year (1 August 2019 – 31 July 2020), a total of 24 such papers were published. Nearly 70% of them were completed and published during the first seven months of 2020. Despite lockdown restrictions in many countries due to Covid-19, many researchers were able to continue their studies.

The Entomology Department supported more than 40 researchers and naturalists from 10 countries (Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Slovakia, Finland, India, Pakistan and United Kingdom). This support goes beyond just loaning specimens, but includes searching for and providing requested information or photographing specimens. The curator, Dmitri Logunov also provided comments/suggestions on improving manuscripts at different stages, identified specimens, especially those of spiders, and encouraged collection volunteers and associates to undertake own research and publish their results. In all papers, the importance of Manchester Museum collections as the repository of voucher/type specimens for the study of taxonomy, comparative morphology and many other topics is highlighted.

The majority of papers (Figure 1) were devoted to spiders, the order Araneae – 17 papers in total. Other taxa studied include beetles (Coleoptera; two papers); butterflies (Lepidoptera; two papers); as well as praying mantises (Mantodea), flies (Diptera) and wasps (Hymenoptera), with one paper on each group. The topics covered by these publications include the taxonomy and systematics (18 papers), including descriptions of new species and genera, a revision of some insect genera and new faunistic records. Two papers focused on faunistic surveys and two others are identification guides. A complete list of publications is given below.

Figure 1.  The taxa covered by the papers published between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020, based on specimens or collections from the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department

Description of two Museum’s collections

Two important collections of the Manchester Museum were described and published at the beginning of 2020. One paper gives an account of a 200 year history of the British butterfly collection, discussing collectors, different collecting periods and patterns. The Museum’s British butterfly collection consists of over 12,000 specimens, representing 69 species. Most of the butterflies were collected during the 1920s, 1930s and 1970s (Dockery & Cook, 2020). Both authors are honorary staff at the Museum. They reinforced the importance of museum insect collections to encourage public interest in natural history and conservation today.

The oldest specimen from Dockery & Cook (2020), a Small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) from the Isle of Wight, 1840. Scale bar = 1cm. The British butterfly collection at The Manchester Museum (reproduced from Figure 10; Dockery & Cook, 2020)

Previously unsorted spiders from southern Europe collected by Eric Duffey (a famous British arachnologist and conservationist) were identified by Prof. Rainer Breitling (The University of Manchester). Around 500 species in 42 families accounting for more than 2500 specimens are included in this paper, which also provides illustrations of selected specimens. The spiders were collected from 12 European countries with data labels providing habitat information for 120 locations (Breitling, 2020). See more about E. Duffey collection and life here and here.

Drawings from Prof. Rainer Breitling (Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Manchester).
South European spiders from the Duffey collection in the Manchester Museum (reproduced from Figure 8; Breitling, 2020)

Highlights of the papers

  • In a revision of the genus Cissidium Motschulsky (Coleoptera: Ptiliidae – feather-winged beetles), 223 specimens from the Manchester Museum were studied, as well as specimens from the British Natural History Museum. The specimens originated from 26 countries in five continents (Darby, 2020). This research actually completes the unfinished study by Colin Johnson, the former Keeper of Entomology at the Museum. Based on morphology, the author (Dr Michael Darby) described 77 new species, and about half of the corresponding types are retained in the Manchester Museum.
  • An updated checklist of four families of the order Diptera (Atelestidae, Brachystomidae, Empididae and Hybotidae) that occur in Lancashire and Cheshire was compiled by Phil Brighton. It is more than a list of species, also including information a national and local conservation status of all species, their distribution, ecology and preferred habitats. As well as museum specimens, the paper relied on several recording schemes, such as the National Empidoidea scheme, Greater Manchester Local Records Centre and RECORD (Brighton, 2020). The document provides a list of 243 species, representing 62% of the total of the British species for these families – a good proportion of these species is deposited in the Manchester Museum.
  • Two papers used morphological, molecular (DNA barcoding) and ecological characters to support species designation and delimitation in two different taxa, ant-mimic Micaria spiders (Araneae, Gnaphosidae; Muster & Michalik, 2019) and Swedish paraitoid wasps of the genus Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Ophioninae; Johansson & Cederberg, 2019). The former emphasized the value of natural history information, especially documented by early naturalists and taxonomists, which is not revealed using modern techniques (Muster & Michalik, 2019).
  • Descriptions of new spider species (order Araneae) and taxonomic reviews, especially at genus level, represented by nearly 70% of the publications (Figure 1). Seven papers were focused on the family Salticidae (jumping spiders), including two by D.V. Logunov, Curator of Arthropods at the Manchester Museum, and A.V. Ponomarev,  of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Logunov & Ponomarev, 2020a, 2020b). These papers present new faunistic records from Turkmenistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and new species from the northern Caucasus (Russia) and Turkmenistan.
  • A description of the fifth new species of praying mantis (Dracomantis mirofraternus, Mantodea: Mantidae) from the central highlands of Vietnam in the last three years, evidences the rich biodiversity of this little-known area (Shcherbakov & Vermeersch, 2020). Manchester Museum holds two paratypes of this species.
  • Many Coleoptera specimens from the Manchester Museum were used to compare species between different biogeographical regions in a review of the Cryptophagidae (Coleoptera; feather-winged beetles) of Canada and Alaska. Specimens of 50 species from the Palearctic Region were used for a comparison with Nearctic species (Pelletier & Hébert, 2019).

Authors’ affiliations

Authors were associated with natural history collections, zoology and entomology departments at museums and universities, including Natural History Museum (London, UK); Natural History Museum (Netherlands); Zoologisches Institut und Museum, Universität Greifswald (Germany); Zoological Museum, University of Turku (Finland); Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel-Aviv University (Israel) and Manchester Museum (UK). Others were affiliated to research and scientific centres, including the Centre for DNA Taxonomy, Zoological Survey of India; Southern Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences; and the Energy, Environment & Water Research Center, The Cyprus Institute; local and national NGOs, for example the Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage and Biodiversity of Cyprus and the Lancashire and Cheshire Entomological Society.

A complete list of publications:

  1. Andrews, P. 2020. Notes and views of the Large Copper and the Lost Fenlands [Online]. Available from: http://www.dispar.org/reference.php?id=163
  2. Azarkina G.N. 2019. Manzuma gen. nov., a new aelurilline genus of jumping spiders (Araneae, Salticidae). European Journal of Taxonomy 611: 1–47. http://doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2020.611
  3. Azarkina, G. N. & Zamani, A. 2020. The first description of the female of Heliophanus xerxesi Logunov, 2009 (Araneae: Salticidae) from Iran. Revue Suisse de Zoologie 127(1): 21-25. http://doi:10.35929/RSZ.0003
  4. Bosmans R. et al., 2019. Spiders of Cyprus (Araneae). A catalogue of all currently known species from Cyprus. Newsletter Belgian Arachnological Society, 34: 1-173.
  5. Breitling, R. 2020. South European spiders from the Duffey collection in the Manchester Museum (Arachnida: Araneae). Arachnology 18(4): 333-362. http://doi:10.13156/arac.2020.18.4.333
  6. Brighton B. 2020. The Diptera of Lancashire and Cheshire: Empidoidea, Part I. L&CES, 47 pp.
  7. Caleb J.T.D., Prajapati D.A. & Ali P.A. 2019. Redescription of Rudakius ludhianaensis (Tikader, 1974) (Aranei: Salticidae), with notes on its synonymy and distribution. Arthropoda Selecta, 28(3): 417-423.
  8. Darby M. 2020. A revision of Cissidium Motschulsky (Coleoptera: Ptiliidae) with seventy seven new species. European Journal of Taxonomy 622: 1–188. http://doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2020.622
  9. Dockery M. & Cook L. 2020. The British butterfly collection at the Manchester Museum. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 156: 135–149.
  10. Esyunin S.L. & Zamani A. 2019. Taxonomic remarks on two Drassodes species (Araneae, Gnaphosidae) from Iran. Acta Arachnology, 68(2): 63-71.
  11. Johansson N. & Cederberg B. 2019. Review of the Swedish species of Ophion (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Ophioninae), with the description of 18 new species and an illustrated key to Swedish species. European Journal of Taxonomy, 550: 1-136. http://doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2019.550
  12. Logunov, D.V. & Ponomarev A.V. 2020a. A new species of Dendryphantes C. L. Koch, 1837 (Araneae: Salticidae) from the Caucasus, with notes on the state of knowledge of the dendryphantines in the Old World. Arachnology, 18(4): 329–332.
  13. Logunov, D.V. & Ponomarev A.V. 2020b. New species and records of Salticidae (Aranei) from Turkmenistan and neighbouring countries. Arthropoda Selecta, 29(1): 67–81.
  14. Marusik, Yu. M. 2019. A new species of Euophrys (Aranei: Salticidae) from Israel. Arthropoda Selecta 28(4): 562–566.
  15. Marusik, Yu. M., Nadolny A. A. & Koponen S. 2020. Redescription of Trochosa urbana (Araneae: Lycosidae) with notes on its distribution. Arachnology 18(5): 482–489.
  16. Marusik, Y. M., Otto, S. & Japoshvili, G. 2020. Taxonomic notes on Amaurobius (Araneae: Amaurobiidae), including the description of a new species. Zootaxa 4718(1): 47-56. http://doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4718.1.3
  17. Muster C. & Michalik P. 2019. Cryptic diversity in ant-mimic Micaria spiders (Araneae, Gnaphosidae) and a tribute to early naturalists. Zoologica Scripta, 00: 1-13. http://doi: 10.1111/zsc.12404
  18. Pelletier, G. & Hébert C. 2019. The Cryptophagidae of Canada and the northern United States of America. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification 40: 305 pp. http://doi:10.3752/cjai.2019.40
  19. Schäfer M. 2020. Ein Beitrag zur Springspinnenfauna (Araneae: Salticidae) der griechischen Insel Kreta mit der Erstbeschreibung von Pellenes florii sp. nov. Arachnologische Mitteilungen 59: 72-87.
  20. Shcherbakov E. O. & Vermeersch X. H. C. 2020. Dracomantis mirofraternus gen. et sp. n., a new genus and species of Hierodulinae (Mantodea: Mantidae) from Vietnam. Far Eastern Entomologist 408: 1-12. http://doi.org/10.25221/fee.408.1
  21. Zamani, A., Hosseini, M. S. & Moradmand, M. 2020. New data on jumping spiders of Iran, with a new species of Salticus (Araneae: Salticidae). Arachnologische Mitteilungen 59: 63-66. http://doi:10.30963/aramit5908
  22. Zamani, A. & Marusik, Y. M. 2020. A review of Agelenini (Araneae: Agelenidae: Ageleninae) of Iran and Tajikistan, with descriptions of four new genera. Arachnology 18(4): 368-386. http://doi:10.13156/arac.2020.18.4.368
  23. Zamani, A., Marusik, Yu.M. & Šestáková, A. 2020. On Araniella and Neoscona (Araneae, Araneidae) of the Caucasus, Middle East and Central Asia. ZooKeys 906: 13–40. http://doi:10.3897/zookeys.906.47978
  24. Zonstein, S. L. & Marusik, Y. M. 2020. A review of the spider genus Boagrius Simon, 1893 (Araneae: Palpimanidae). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 68: 91-102. http://doi:10.26107/RBZ-2020-0010
Male of Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrae) from the collection of the entomology collection of Manchester Museum. © Manchester Museum.

One of the Manchester Museum’s temporary exhibitions entitled ‘Beauty and the Beasts: falling in love with insects’, which was opened from late Nov 2019 till Dec 2020, was devoted to insects, their beauty and cultural importance for people. Due to the coronavirus crisis the exhibition was opened to the public only for few months from late Nov 2019 to mid-March 2020. However, its full, richly illustrated content is freely accessible here online. Despite being unable to run tours to the exhibition, we continue to introduce our audience to its content by running online zoom talks and discussion sessions. One of such sessions with the visitors from the Manchester Culture Champions resulted in a lovely feedback: a poem written and presented to us by one of its participants, Nakib Narat, who was inspired by our presentation and the content of the exhibition. Please, have a look below and enjoy as we do. Thank you very much Nakib for such delightful and unexpected feedback.

Three Christmas Stars of Manchester Museum

(Thank You very much to Curators Rachel Webster and Dmitri Logunov for the wonderful Zoom talk about their work, displays and stories about some of the extraordinary plants and creatures in the Manchester Museum)

Lovely Three Stars of Zoom event

Bearing gifts so generously sent.

Magical Manchester Museum’s curiosities

Gifted from Orient to Occident.

Maria Jose’s “Made to Measure”

Amazing, extraordinary treasures! 

From “Beauty & The Beasts” luminosities:

Dmitri & Rachel’s personal pleasures.

O Stars of wonder, stars so bright

Joyful, learning. So discerning

Rachel & Dmitri’s wondrous sights!

Entomology to Botany and Zoology

Mantis Shrimp to Moths and bugs that glow

Herbariums for ecosystems yearning

As Insectophiles gather ‘neath the Mistletoe

Humans and insects connected.

All life only protected 

When we are a whole.

All life only protected

When we are a whole

Nakib Narat

Spider model made by our young visitors to one of the insect-related public events run by the Manchester Museum. © Vicky Haydn

Colin Johnson (born 1943) was fascinated by the natural history since his childhood, starting with chasing butterflies at primary school. Many years later, he joined the Entomology Department of the Manchester Museum to which he eventually committed more than 40 years. During this time, he studied the taxonomy of several beetle families (order Coleoptera), and continued to undertake taxonomic research for at least 10 more years after his retirement in 2004.

Photo. Colin Johnson, Keeper of Entomology, Manchester Museum, 1980s. © The Manchester Museum
Photo. Colin Johnson, Keeper of Entomology, Manchester Museum, 1980s. © The Manchester Museum

As a teenager, being inspired by an enthusiastic biology teacher, Colin developed a real interest in the entomology. His teacher introduced him to Flatters & Garnett Ltd. – the entomology dealer and shop at Oxford Road – opposite the University of Manchester, and soon he discovered the entomological laboratory owned by the same company in Fallowfield. He joined the Manchester Entomological Society in the 1950s where he met such famous fellow entomologists as Dr W. D. Hincks (Keeper of Entomology at the Manchester Museum in 1947–1961), Alan Brindle (Dr Hincks’ assistant), George Kloet and Ted Fielding. They encouraged youngsters, such us Colin, to develop a passion for insects, especially for identifying and collecting, and to become an active part of this and other entomological societies. In the late 50s or early 60s, Colin joined the North Western Naturalists’ Union, the Oldham Natural History Society, the Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society and the Raven Entomological and Natural History Society, many of which still active now. Colin Johnson wrote an account of his life for a special publication celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Raven Society in 1996 (Johnson, 1996).

At the age of 18, Colin started to work as Alan Brindle’s assistant in the Entomology Department at the Manchester Museum, where he remained for the following 42 years. Starting as a Junior Technician in October 1961, he became Assistant Keeper of Entomology in 1972, and Keeper of Entomology in 1982 until his retirement in July 2003. Throughout his career, he was dedicated to the taxonomy of neglected and difficult groups of tiny beetles, especially of the silken fungus beetles (Cryptophagidae), fungus beetles (Latriididae) and featherwing beetles (Ptiliidae). He completed an MSc at the University of Manchester in 1978 devoted to Ptiliidae of the Seychelles and Mascarene Islands. In collaboration with many colleagues and friends across the globe, he was able to add a great number of beetle specimens to the Manchester Museum’s entomology collection through the exchanges between institutions and fellow coleopterists, and through his own fieldwork. Before his research and fieldwork, many of British/foreign beetle groups were poorly represented or absent from the Museum’s collection. From 1967 to 2012, Johnson had described an astonishing 405 new taxa to science, including new genera, species and subspecies.

Colin Johnson recorded and identified many beetles and added many new species to the British list, and even more to the northwest region (Lancashire and Cheshire), specifically of the families of rove beetles (Staphylinidae), pill beetles (Byrrhidae) and various Clavicornia – beetles with club-shaped antennae. The first new beetle species added by Colin to the British list was Rhizapagus parvulus Paykull, 1800 (the currently accepted name R. fenestralis Linnaeus, 1758), collected from Glen Affric, Scotland (Figure 1), and the account of its discovery was published in the Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine in 1962 (Johnson, 1962).

Figure 1. Rhizophagus parvulus Paykull, 1800, collected from Glen Affric, 1964; it is the first addition to the British beetle list by Colin Johnson. Scale bar: 1mm. © The Manchester Museum

In 1967, Johnson published 17 papers, including the description of the first new species, a scarce beetle Atomaria strandi Johnson, 1967 from Britain and Norway (Figure 2). This minute beetle of the silken fungus beetles is 1.6-2.0 mm in length, named after Johnson’s good friend Dr Andreas Strand from Oslo, who contributed greatly to the knowledge of Coleoptera in northern Europe. For the account of this species, Johnson examined 36 specimens, the majority of which were collected from Britain and six specimens were lent by Dr Strand.

Figure 2. The holotype and voucher specimens of Atomaria strandi Johnson, 1967 in the entomological collection of Manchester Museum. The holotype was collected at Nethy Bridge in 1923 by P. Harwood. © The Manchester Museum

At the end of 1967, he described the first new African genus of featherwing beetles that accounted for three species, of which two were new to science: viz., Africoptolium marginatum (Figure 3), A. concinnum and A. mimicum. For this description, Johnson had examined specimens from central and eastern Africa, especially the material borrowed from the Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren; British Museum (NHM), and specimens donated to Manchester Museum by Prof. H. Franz.

Figure 3. Female paratype of Africoptolium marginatum Johnson, 1967; Congo Museum Collection, Terr. Lubero, Kivu, 1954, collected by R. P. M. J. Célis. Manchester Museum Entomology Collection. Scale bar: 1mm. © The Manchester Museum

The publication of ‘The Provisional Atlas of the Cryptophagidae – Atomariinae (Coleoptera) of Britain and Ireland’, in 1993 by the Biological Records Centre (Natural Environment Research Council – NERC) (Figure 4), marked an important step in Colin’s career. The publication was the result of extensive, lifelong taxonomic studies based on specimens from many British and Irish museums, from private collections and own active fieldwork.

Figure 4. Atlas of the Cryptophagidae – Atomariinae (Coleoptera) by Colin Johnson (left). Records and species account for Atomaria strandi Johnson 1967 (middle). Online version of A. strandi at National Biodiversity Network (right).

A complete type catalogue of the species described by Colin Johnson that are deposited in the Manchester Museum is currently in progress. However, it has been delayed due to the Covid-related restrictions. As part of this project, details of Colin’s personal life and contributions to the Manchester Museum’s entomology collection and to the state of knowledge of British and global Coleoptera is currently being compiled with the support of his family, museum archives and published papers.


Johnson, C. 1962. Rhizophagus parvulus Payk. (Col. Rhizophagidae): An Addition to the British List.  Entomologist’s mon. Mag. (1962) 98: 231.

Johnson, C. 1967. Additions and Corrections to the British List of Atomaria s.str. (Col., Cryptophagidae), Including a Species New to Science. Entomologist 100: 39-47.

Johnson, C. 1967. Studies on Ethiopian Ptiliidae. 1, Africoptilium gen. n. from Central Africa. Entomologist 100: 288-292.

Johnson, C. 1993. The Provisional Atlas of the Cryptophagidae – Atomariinae (Coleoptera) of Britain and Ireland. Biological Records Centre (Natural Environment Research Council – NERC).

Johnson, C. 1996. Colin Johnson [recollection]. In: Underwood, R. (editor). The Raven Entomological and Natural History Society, Fifty years, 1946 to 1996. Pp. 165-167.

Spiders – you love them or you hate them. The latter is probably because you are afraid of them. It is hardly surprising, as the (inter)national media are full of spider-related nonsense with the only truth being that the news are about spiders which indeed exist: e.g., THE SCOTSMAN, Oct 1 2005: “Scotland is being invaded by new breeds of spider which are marching north as a result of climate change…” – DAILY MAIL, July 1 2005: “Gardener is left fighting for breath after a nip from the black widow’s distant cousin”. – THE WASHINGTON TIMES, Feb 27 2004: “A German man who kept more than 200 spiders in his home, along with other odd pets, was apparently killed and eaten by his critters”. No doubts, after reading this, anyone will get scared. Actually, the first two storylines are about False Black Widow Spiders (Steatoda species) representing part of the native British fauna and not dangerous. Reports on their bites are rarely/not backed up with formal spider identification.

Historically, spiders have become a traditional part of Halloween scare and even its symbol due to their suspected connection with witches. In medieval times, spiders, black cats and rats were believed to be evil companions of witches. Spiders are regularly depicted in horror films, occurring in and crawling out witch dwellings, vampire lairs or dungeons, and such places are always shown as being totally lined up with a thick layer of silk. Hence, no wonder people are afraid of spiders. But are spiders really that dangerous?

Pumpkin spider candle holder. © Jade Adrian

Spiders represent a very diverse group of organisms, with over 48,860 species being described worldwide to date. In Britain alone there are approximately 670 spider species, of which two thirds belong to the group known as ‘money spiders’ – tiny creatures with the body length less than 2 mm long. In the UK, there are NO spiders dangerous to man, rest assured about this. Nevertheless, how many of us could admire spiders or simply tolerate their presence: say, daddy-long-legs in own cellar or a house-spider in a bathroom?

Most/all common fears of spiders are because these awesome creatures are badly misunderstood. If one imagines a spider, two main features thereof immediately come to mind: venom and silk. Let us consider both features and some misconceptions connected to them.

1. All spiders are poisonous.

This is what people say and this is one of the main reasons why spiders are feared. Well, all spiders are carnivorous. They possess sharp fangs and kill their prey with a venomous bite. Thus, all spiders, except for one family Uloboridae, are venomous. But the common concern and fear are really about whether spiders are dangerous to humans?

Our ancestors seemed to be confident about this, depicting spiders as demonic, insect ghouls, with venom mouths. Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503–42) in his epigram ‘How by a Kiss he found both his Life and Death’ made known spiders as anti-bees gathering poison from a flower:

“Nature, that gave the bee so feat a grace

To find honey of so wondrous fashion,

Hath taught the spider out of the same place

To fetch poison, by strange alteration.”

In the 17th century, spiders and their bites were sometimes regarded as dangerous as nitric acid or rat poison. Even nowadays, there are lots of urban legends about “deadly” spiders, for instance, “The Daddy-longlegs Spider has the world’s most powerful venom”; “People can lose arms and legs because of spider bites”; “Deadly poisonous spiders lurk beneath toilet seats in airports”; “The spider found in the bath crawled out the plughole”; etc. Alas, none of these statements is true.

Male of House Spider (Eratigena duellica) did not crawl out the plughole, as some might think, it entered the house via the door searching for a possible mate. Just let it go. © H. Bellmann

In a simplified way, there are two different kinds of venom produced by spiders: neurotoxic and necrotic. Neurotoxic venoms work directly on the nervous system. The best known example is the venom of Black Widow spiders (Latrodectus species). Necrotic venoms cause damage to the tissues, such as ulcers and lesions. The best example is the venom of Recluse Spiders (Loxosceles species). More about spider bites here and here. However, we need to remember that although a dozen or so spiders (out of about 50,000 species known worldwide) are known to produce venom that is toxic to humans, none of these species occurs in the UK. Thus, in this country, there is no reason to fear spiders and their bites at all.

Cross section of spider carapace to show the position of poison glands. Modified from Foelix (2011).

2. All spiders make webs.

In our imaginary world spiders are capable of weaving silk in such large quantities that even a human body could be wrapped up, as it happened to poor Frodo Baggins in Shelob’s lair from ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Nothing could be more untrue than such nonsense (not to mention that the giant spider Shelob was depicted as a non-existing type of animal (even with a sting).

The English word ‘spider’ comes from the old English ‘spinnan’ via the Middle English ‘spither’ meaning ‘spinner’, and as such spiders frequently appear in English literature. For instance, Shakespeare used a spider in his ‘The Merchant of Venice’, Act III, Scene II:  “Here in her hairs / the painter plays the spider, and hath woven / a golden mesh t’entrap the hearts of men”. Yes, all spiders can produce and weave silk. However, although all spider webs are made of silk – the material of outstanding mechanical properties (or here) – not all spiders build webs for prey capture. Many actively hunt for their prey, as reflected in their names: jumping spiders, lynx spiders, wolf spiders, etc. Yet all spiders use silk for producing egg sacs, retreats, moulting or mating chambers, draglines, and some of them for making catching devices. Many spiders use silk threads for ballooning and this way can disperse for long distances, sometimes for hundreds of miles (watch the video below). This is why in the Medieval English bestiaries, spiders were described as aerial worms that take their nourishment from the air.

I you are walking in the countryside and accidentally have a silk thread across your face, there is nothing to worry about – it is likely to be gossamer, and hence the time for St Martin’s summer, Martinmas in a church and a goose to be cooked and eaten… By all means silk production by spiders has no effect on our life, apart from the need to clean dark corners of our houses, and in this respect there is no need to worry or fear spiders at all.

Male of common European jumping spider Aelurillus v-insignitus is looking at you. Is not it cute? Are you really still scared? © Barbara Thaler-Knoflach

Further reading:

Foelix R.F. 2011. Biology of spiders (third edition). Oxford Univ. Press., 420 pp.

Hillyard P. 1994. The book of the spider. New York: Avon Books, 218 pp.

Marren P. & Mabey R. 2010. Bugs Brittanica. London: Chatto & Windus, 500 pp.

Male of Euglossa heterosticta approaching flowers (right) and landed on them (left), La Selva Field Station, Costa Rica, June 2018; © M. O’Donnel.

Honeybee males are called drones (see also here). They do not have sting, do not make honey, do not even feed themselves but are rather fed by worker bees; their primary role is to mate with virgin queens. As result, drones have acquired a rather negative reputation among humans. From the ancient times till now, drones have been regularly described as ‘lazy loudmouths’, ‘greedy lozells’ or even ‘virulent weeds, to be eradicated’ (Fig. 1). They “lazily consume the labours of the bee” – said Hesiod in his Works and Days (c. 700BS); so drones were not even seen as the bees. Thomas Moffet (1658) in his Insectorum wrote about drones:

Both God and man disdain that man

Which Drone like in the blue,

Nor good nor ill, endeavour can

Upon himself to live,

But idle is, and without sting,

And grieves the labouring Bee,

Devouring that which he home brings,

Not yielding help or fee.”

Fig. 1. Greedy drones, as depicted in Cotton’s Buzz-a-Buzz. © The Bodleian Libraries, The University of Oxford. In the frame at the left top corner, a honeybee drone from the collection of the Manchester Museum.

Sometimes drones are depicted as indolent, small-brained creatures that are anatomically unfitted for foraging, in other words, for doing THE important job – i.e., collecting nectar and making honey for us, humans. Indeed, what impudence!

Perhaps drones are not altogether idle and do help in warming and cleaning the hive, and secreting a special jelly used for feeding brood. Yet the truth is that after the breeding season all drones are evicted from the hive or slaughtered by female workers if they resist eviction. Their life is short and basically serves one purpose only – mating, but who would dare to say that this JOB is not important?

However, drones in some other groups of bees, for instance, orchid bees (see also here) demonstrate a far more complex lifestyle and are notable for their important role in pollination, especially of orchids – this is why their name. As the famous Spanish poet Antonio Machada (1875–1939) put it, “Bees, singers not for the honey but for the flowers”. Orchid bees are also distinguished by their shiny metallic coloration and resemble living jewels (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. The male orchid bee Exaerete smaragdina from Costa Rica in the insect collection of the Manchester Museum. © The Manchester Museum.

Orchids are the most species rich plant family, accounting for more than 10% of all flowering plant species. Male orchid bees pollinate over 25% of the orchid species (c. 2,000) from tropical Americas. More than 600 orchid species depend solely on male orchid bees for pollination. Males do not specialize in one or a few orchids and visit many different species. Although females of some orchid bees pollinate nectar-producing orchids such as Sobralia (in that mode resembling other bee pollinators), it’s the males that are much more important in orchid pollination. This unique mode of pollination is sometimes called the ‘perfume flower syndrome‘ – that is a selective attraction of male orchid bees to orchid flowers.

Male orchid bees are strong flyers. While visiting numerous flowers, individual males are able to travel long distances from 400-800 m to 5-6 km in a single trip, or even to cross the distance of 45-50 km within a few days. The longest flight distance ever recorded for a male orchid bee (Euglossa viridissima) from Yucatán, Mexico was 95 km, crossed in 12 days. Isn’t that an impressive achievement for a housefly-sized creature?

But why do male orchid bees visit orchids and other flowers? Certain flowers are visited to feed on nectar and pollen, as all bees do. However, males do not collect nectar for producing honey. Making honey is still the duty of orchid bee females. Yet the majority of flowers visited by drones usually lack nectar but are very fragrant, with bees being attracted by flower scent. Indeed, they visit flowers to collect aromatic compounds to render themselves attractive to females, and also for chemical signalling to their rivals during territorial display. Males also collect fragrances from non-floral sources, such as plant wounds, fungi or even rotten wood.

Fig. 3. Male of Eulaema cingulata from the collection of the Manchester Museum: A – brusher of the front tarsi; B – tibial organ of the hind legs, modified from Dressler (1968: fig. 1).

While visiting a flower, a male brushes on the surface of the flower with hair pads of its forelegs (Fig. 3), collecting the fragrance oils. Usually the bee brushes for a short time, then hovers near the flower and transfers the collected substance via midlegs to a specialized hollow pocket in its enlarged hind legs in which the scents are stored. The male repeats this behaviour many times, sometimes remaining on one flower or inflorescence as long as 90 minutes. This behaviour is shown on the following short video.

Drone receives a pollen sac (=pollinarium) as it leaves the flower or during collecting fragrance oils, as shown in Fig. 4. Pollinaria are usually glued to a dorsal side of bees: head, thorax or abdomen (Fig. 5), also to antennae and legs. Individual bees often can carry the pollinaria of more than one orchid species. Having received pollinaria, drone flies away and then visits another flower of the same orchid species where the pollinaria are detached and pollination takes place.

Fig. 4. Pollination of the orchid Stanhopea grandiflora by male orchid bee Eulaema meriana: (A) The bees enters in the saccate base of the flower lip; (B) The lip is very smooth and slippery, the bee may fall while withdrawing, attaching pollinaria (in yellow) to its thorax; (C) Dorsal view of the bee with the pollinaria attached; (D) Outline of the bee showing placement of the pollinaria from side. Modified from Dressler (1968: fig. 2).

Many orchids are very scarce in nature, with individual plants being separated from each other by long distances. Therefore, male orchid bees are to be really strong flyers to visit several flowers of such orchids in a single trip. Indeed, these bees are strong flyers (see above).

Fig. 5. Outline of an orchid bee male showing how pollinaria of different orchid groups can be attached: (A) Notylia; (B) Lacaena; (C) Mormodes, goblin orchids; (D) Cycnoches; modified from Dressler (1968: fig. 4). On the right: male of Euglossa imperialis from Costa Rica carrying two pollinaria, © J.H. Marden.

According to one hypothesis, the main reason why male orchid bees collect floral fragrances is that it helps them to be more competitive when mating. A female seems to choose a potential mate based on its ‘quality’ which is associated with the complexity of a perfume presented by the male. Females prefer males with more complex bouquets, which can contain up to a dozen of aromatic compounds. A complex perfume is correlated with greater male fitness: i.e., its strength and physical characteristics. The male that is able to fly long distances and to visit more flowers can present a more complex bouquet; it also means that such male lived longer and hence its survival rate is higher. As male physical characteristics are heritable, the offspring from a stronger male will have higher chances to survive.

The orchid bees’ attraction to floral scents is used to study their diversity, daily activity, flight ranges, etc. by means of chemical baits. Please, watch the following video on how to attract and count orchid bees.

Further reading

Birchall E. 2014. In praise of bees. A cabinet of curiosities. Quiller, Shrewsbury, UK, 256 pp.

Cameron S.A. 2004. Phylogeny and biology of Neotropical orchid bees (Euglossini). Ann. Rev. Entomology, 49: 377-404.

Dressler R.L. 1968. Pollination by Euglossine bees. Evolution, 22(1): 202-210.

McHatton R. 2011. Orchid pollination: exploring a fascinating world. Orchids, June: 340-349; online

Roubik D.W. & Hanson P.E. 2004. Orchid bees of tropical America. Biology and field guide. Sna Jose: INBio, 370 pp.

Female of the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) from the Manchester Museum’s entomological collection. © The Manchester Museum

Our star species in this month is a summer visitor to the UK, the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) of the family Syrphidae, also known as Belted Hoverfly. Although it looks very similar to the European Hornet (Vespa crabro), with black and yellow stripes across its abdomen, it is absolutely harmless to humans. The fly mimics the Hornet both in size and in the appearance, and even makes a similar buzzing noise while flying.

Adults of the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly can reach 2 cm in length, and as such it is the largest hoverfly species in the UK. Its yellow face and forehead, big eyes and orange-yellow and black stripes on the abdomen are its characteristic features. V. zonaria is a migratory species, occurring from the Mediterranean across most of Europe and further to the east. In Great Britain, it can be found from May to October, visiting flowers in parks and gardens, before flying back to the mainland in the autumn. Females lay hundreds of eggs in wasps’ nests, where the larvae are scavengers, eating debris at the bottom of the nest cavity.

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly visiting a garden flower at Whalley Range, Manchester, UK; July 2020 © C. Devenish

Hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen; they can carry and transfer pollen while foraging, even over long distances, especially during migration. Migratory hoverflies are considered to be the second most important pollinators, after bees. Hoverflies do not appear to be as hairy as bees but most of the species have small hairs covering nearly the entire body. The pollen grains stick to hairs (in less quantity than on bees) but the pollen can be transported and transferred from flower to flower more often and very effectively. Further research is needed in terms of understanding foraging movements, especially for migrating species.

Approximately, four billion hoverflies travel to and from Britain every year. They play an essential role as key pollinators and sometimes their ecological services are largely underestimated. Some of these ecological services include pest control, nutrient recycling and crop protection. For example, trillions of aphids are eaten by hoverfly larvae, and they also represent valuable food resources for birds, bats and other predators. Populations do not seem to be decreasing dramatically, however, there is a necessity to study their response to environmental changes, especially caused by human activities (e.g. effects of pesticides and agrochemicals), and how they could be beneficial in sustainable agriculture (Pollination by hoverflies in the Anthropocene).

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly has expanded its geographic range and appears to be more common in England now, especially further north. This extension in distribution could be resulted from a climate change. Before 1940, the species was recorded as very rare and only known from two specimens collected in the south. In Manchester Museum’s entomology collection, there are 20 specimens, mainly collected from Bournemouth, Essex, Surrey and Middlesex between 1958 and 1987.

Female (top) and male (bottom) of the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly from Manchester Museum’s entomological collection. © The Manchester Museum

Records across England from iNaturalist, a citizen science nature recording app, show 734 verified observations of Volucella zonaria since 2015, mostly concentrated in the south and midlands, with one record further north in Kendal, Cumbria (see on the map).

Observations of the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly in England from iNaturalist (20/08/2020).

Of the threats the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly encounters from humans is the confusion in its appearance with the European Hornet (Vespa crabro) and with the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina), especially when it comes indoors, resulting in many innocent deaths. The Wildlife Trust has created an identification guide with images and information to help separate the hornets and the lookalike hornets. Next time you see a ‘hornet like’ flying creature look twice before you harm or disturb it; it could be the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly!


01a_Honey Bee_a

A Honeybee (Apis mellifera) collecting nectar and pollen, as seen by a professional photographer. © Victor Glupov (Novosibirsk, Russia).

01b_Madhubani Art

A Honeybee drinking nectar, as seen by a folk artist. Madhubani Folk Art, practiced in the Mithila region of India; August, 2018. Source: Indian Institute of Science.

Everyone knows and likes bees, particularly the European Honeybee (Apis mellifera), both as the spring harbinger in poetry and as the maker of honey. As a poet from Minnesota James Lenfestey (2016: 99) nicely put it, “Honey is food the way poetry is food, sweet as a child’s wounded smile is sweet, complex the way fine wine’s complex, enrapturing the entire mouth, with a sticky, lasting finish”. The Honeybee is one of the few insects domesticated and then cultivated by man for own benefits; the second most famous one is Silkworm Moth (Bombyx mori).

Bee is a universal symbol of ethical virtues, such as diligence, sociability, purity, cleanliness, wisdom, creativity and others (Kritsky & Cherry, 2000). In Ancient Egypt, tears of the Sun God Ra turned into bees upon touching the ground. In Ancient Greece, bee was a cult symbol for Artemis, the virgin huntress and goddess of wild nature. In Christian allegory, Honeybee often represents the Virgin Mary, also known as Queen of the Bees in Catholicism. As Mary gave birth to Christ, so the queen bee produces honey; more about Honeybees in the Bible can be found here.

02_Honey Bee_Barcelona

Depictions of Honeybees – a Christian symbol of purity and cleanliness – on the main doors of La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona (Catalonia). © Dmitri Logunov (Manchester, UK).

The British traditional lore on bees is also rich (Chainey, 2018). For instance, in Suffolk it is believed that Honeybees are to be treated as members of the family because they are intelligent and hard-working creatures. Penzance people are confident that honey should be harvested on St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August), because he is the patron saint of bees. In Yorkshire, dire consequences could follow if someone kills a bee. Perhaps, one of the best-known bee symbols in the UK is the worker bee of Manchester, which has been an emblem of the city’s hard-working past and the city being a hive of activity for over 150 years (see here and here for more information).

03_Manchester Bee

One of the traditional images of the worker bee of Manchester, the city that was made by the workers. © http://www.visitmanchester.com.

One of the most diverse pantheons of bee-related symbols exists in India. There are evidences of beekeeping and harvesting honey in India since the early Vedic Period (c. 1,500 BC); see here for more information. In Āyurveda, one of the world’s oldest healthy lifestyle system, honey is mentioned as being used for healing and cleaning wounds, anointing and diets (see here for more information).

In India, honey is collected from four indigenous bee species: Indian Honeybee (Apis cerana indica), a non-aggressive, domesticated bee in South Asia; Giant Honeybee (Apis dorsata), a large, aggressive species that could not be domesticated and is harvested from the wild; Dwarf Honeybee (Apis florea), a harmless species living in small, open colonies, not domesticated and also harvested from the wild; and Stingless Bee (Tetragonula iridipennis), a small harmless species of which honey and especially propolis (=bee glue) have notable pharmacological properties. Modern methods of beekeeping in India and the introduction of the European Honeybee (Apis mellifera) started in the late 19th century.

04_Giant Honey Bee

Specimens of Giant Honeybee (Apis dorsata) from the Manchester Museum’s entomological collection. © The Manchester Museum.

In Hindu mythology, bees are divine assistants to human’s earthly life, helping to keep all of nature in harmony. Bees are also powerful symbols of life and rebirth. In Assam, the spirit of men are said to become Honeybees (bee-souls). Here are few examples of numerous Indian bee-related symbols (based on Karttunen, 2015):

(1) Bees’ attraction to flowers was commonly used in erotic symbolism, developing the idea of kissing bees being in love with flowers: ‘A flower without a bee is like a young woman in love without a lover’ (Śankara ŚTBh 134). In India, beautiful women were said to attract bees that mistake them for flowers: their sweet breath or lotus-feet were mistaken for real lotus flowers. Well, some people might suspect that women’s perfume, flower ornaments or occasionally aromatic incenses could be the reason for this attraction, but who would believe in such explanation?

(2) Bees and their hum are often mentioned as symbols of love and spring. In the spring – the season of Kāma, the Hindu God of Love (sometimes depicted as Brahma‘s son) – the hum of bees is taken by poets as a romantic sound inciting love. It is believed that people yearning for absent or unwilling lovers could not stand to hear bees’ buzzing. In Indian mythology, Honeybees form the string of Kāma’s bow made of sugarcane, symbolizing that the love arrows of god are sweet but also painful. Kāma shoots five flowery arrows triggering the five effects of desire: attraction, followed by disturbance, burning, desiccation and, alas, destruction. Bees and their hum are always mentioned as Kāma’s subsidiary weapons.


Kāma, the Hindu God of Love, with his sugarcane bow having the string formed by honeybees. Source: here.

(3) Bee was a symbol of the Hindu gods Indra, Krishna and Vishnu who were collectively called Madhava, ‘born of honey’. Bees belong to the abodes of gods: Indra’s paradise. The Sanskrit word for honey is madhu, which means ‘mead’. Madhavi is also the name of a perennial evergreen liana (Hiptage benghalensis), native to India, which is usually mentioned in poetry as an erotic symbol, since it blooms in spring; it is also of great medicinal value.

06_Krishna and bees

Honeybees are attracted by the sweetness of Krishna’s face. Source: Krishna Art.

(4) God Brahmā (the Creator) is the bee of Vishnu’s navel-lotus, humming Vedic texts (veda means ‘knowledge’).


Hindu Goddess Bhrāmarī and the honeybees. Source: Planet Bee Foundation.

One of the expressions of Hindus’ supreme deity Vishnu is an ethereal Blue Bee on a Lotus flower; the latter is the foremost symbol of feminine beauty (especially female eyes), prosperity and fertility. The blue colour refers to that of the sky from which the gods come. Brahmi (= waterhyssop; Bacopa monnieri) is a non-aromatic Indian herb which is used in a traditional Āyurvedic medicine.

There is also a Hindu Goddess Bhrāmarī (an incarnation of the Goddess Shakti) – the Goddess of Black Bees – whose name could be translated as ‘like a bee’ and who is associated with bees, hornets and wasps. Bee Goddess was regarded as the female principle of the divine, destroyer of demons and the embodiment of the energies of the Gods.

In modern India, bees are still perceived with an obvious piety: “…A man on the ground so low lifted his head up looking at us, smiling, raising his brow…” – from Mystic Indian. Since the ancient times, it is believed that honey brings poets the gift of sweet speech. Here is a quote from Rig Veda (1:90:6-8), an ancient collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns from around 1,5-2,000 BC:

“Let every wind that blows drop honey
Let the rivers and streams recreate honey
Let all our medicines turn honey
Let the dawn and evening be full of honey
Let the dark particles be converted to honey
Our nourisher, this sky above, be full of honey
Let our trees be honey
Let the Sun be honey
Let our cows secrete honey”.

Modern authors, artists and scientists continue to be struck by bees, their buzzing lifestyle, complex organisation of their life and their importance in nature. You can find more about bees, bee art and art in conservation in a special section of the Manchester Museum’s new exhibition ‘Beauty of the Beasts’ (here); the entire content of the exhibition can be found here.

09a_Honeybee Poem

‘UnBEElievables’, Picture book by Douglas Florian (2012).

References and further reading:

Chainey D.D. 2018. A treasury of British folklore. Maypoles, Mandrakes & Mistletoe. National Trust, 192 pp.

Fudala A. 2017. The Sacred Bee: Ancient India. – Planet Bee Foundation, online here.

Karttunen K. 2015. Bhramarotpītādharah – Bees in Classical India. – Studia Orientalia Electronica, 107: 89-134; online here.

Kritsky G. & Cherry R. 2000. Insect Mythology. Writers Club Press, 140 pp.

The species of Tortoise beetle, Spaethaspis lloydi (Chrysomelidae, Cassidinae), was described in 1952 by Walter Douglas Hincks (former Keeper of Entomology at the Manchester Museum). Hincks started studying insects as a hobby and developed a special interest in beetles (Coleoptera) and fairflies (Mymaridae). In 1947, he accepted the full time post of Assistant Keeper and in 1957 his title changed to Keeper of Entomology. Here, at the Manchester Museum, he started rearranging the entomology collection and expanding the library with the idea of transforming the department into one of the best entomological reference collections and study centres in the North of England. He was also a very active member of multiple societies, including the Royal Entomological Society, the Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Committee and the Manchester Microscopical Society. Hincks was one of England’s greatest entomologists, and his work continued as a Keeper of Entomology until his sudden death in 1961.


W. D. Hincks – Keeper of Entomology, Manchester Museum 1947 – 1961 (archive of the Manchester Museum).

On behalf of the Museum, Hincks acquired many insect collections including Dr. Frank Spaeth’s Tortoise Beetle Collection. Spaeth (1863 -1946) was the main authority on Cassidinae (tortoise beetles) at that time. His first paper on the group was published in 1898 and a total of 141 taxonomic papers were published during the course of 45 years of research. Spaeth built up a private collection by purchasing material from other collections/colelctors and maintaining voucher specimens which he was able to keep after identifying them for other museums and institutions (letters allowing him to keep type specimens are in his archive at the Manchester Museum). The collection was housed in Spaeth’s flat in Vienna (Austria) in 80 large cabinet drawers, but during World War II the collection was condensed into 40 drawers and was kept safe in the basement of the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Spaeth’s collection survived the war, but the first copy of a new manuscript on the Cassidinae beetles was destroyed by bombing in Vienna while actually on the printing press.


Dr. Frank Spaeth in his study in Vienna, late 1930s (archive of the Manchester Museum).

In 1950, Hincks acquired and moved Dr. Frank Spaeth’s Cassidinae Collection, containing 23,094 specimens of nearly 2,211 species and 3,000 type specimens, from Vienna to Manchester. The 40 drawers were packed and transported by a British war-plane to London and then by train to Manchester; they reached the museum without damage. Spaeth’s manuscripts, unfinished works and other archival materials were sent by railway. Spaeth’s Cassidinae collection would have not been possible to acquire without the generosity and the support of the businessman and benefactor Robert W. Lloyd (1868-1958).


Drawers and specimens – Spaeth’s Cassidinae Collection. Manchester Museum.


Specimens of tortoise beetles from Spaeth’s Cassidinae collection, Manchester Museum.

Hincks later continued Spaeth’s work from his remaining papers now at the Manchester Museum. The specimen of Spaethaspis lloydi was originally placed by Spaeth under an invalid generic name. After a comprehensive revision, Hincks published a systematic review of the group, including the description of several new species of tortoise beetles. The new genus Spaethaspis was named in honour of Dr. Spaeth and the name lloydi was chosen by Hincks to acknowledge R.W. Lloyd’s part in the story of this collection. The Museum has also benefited from Lloyd’s donations of many other entomological materials (complete account of his legacy here) and human-related artefacts (e.g., a collection of Japanese armour).


The type specimen, labels and original drawing of  Spaethaspis lloydi (Chrysomelidae, Cassidinae) used by Walter Douglas Hincks for the species description in 1952.

The species Spaethaspis lloydi was described in 1952 from a single specimen collected in Ecuador, and its description was published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London (No. 103, Vol 10). There are only two described species in this genus, both from South America.

More than 250 tortoise beetles have been described from specimens deposited in the Manchester Museum’s Cassidinae collection, which also contains more than 70% of the known species of this group of beetles in the world fauna. Some ten years ago, the Cassidinae collection, including both Spaeth’s and Hinck’s collections, were recurated and documented by a work placement student, Danielle Higham, who also published a description of the collection (see here).


Cook, L. 2019. Beetles, butterflies and bibliophilia: the entomological legacy of Robert Wylie Lloyd. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 155: 3-14

Cook, L. & D. Logunov. 2017. The Manchester Entomological Society (1902–1991), its story and historical context. Russian Entomol. J. 26(4): 365-388

Hincks, W. D. 1952. The genera of the Cassidinae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of London 103(10): 327-358

Higham, D. 2012. The Manchester Museum’s Cassidinae Collection (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae). Genus, Vol. 23(3): 341-361


Fig. 1. The male of Giant Japanese Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi, from the collection of the Manchester Museum. Donated by Dr J.H. Ashworth in January 19th, 1904 (accession no. G1016). © Manchester Museum.

The Giant Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi (family Inachidae) (Fig. 1), is not only the largest crustacean but the largest living arthropod (i.e., an invertebrate animal with articulated legs) in the world. In Japan, the crab is known as “Taka-ashi-gani” which means “Tall-legged crab”. The body of these giants can be up to 37-40 cm long, 3.8 m in leg span and 19 kg in weight; the average leg span of the crabs caught by fishermen is 1-1.2 m. Males are larger than females, with larger claws and narrower body. See here and here for more details about crab morphology.

Giant Spider Crabs live on the sandy and rocky seabed off the Pacific side of the Japanese islands (Honshu and Kyushu), at depths of 200-300 m, but can be found deeper, to over 500 m. It is believed that in the wild crabs can live for 50-100 years. According to popular sea folklore, Giant Spider Crabs might drag sailors underwater and feast on their flesh, which could never be true because the crabs are omnivorous scavengers, feeding on carrion, dead plant matter and shellfish.

In early spring (January to March), crabs move to shallower waters (around 50 m) to moult and reproduce. Each female lays up 1.5 million eggs and carries them on its backs and lower body during incubation (about 10 days) until they hatch. The vast majority of newly hatched larvae do not survive to maturity.

Giant Spider Crabs are considered delicacy in Japan (eaten raw, salted or cooked) and caught by small trawling nets. Although the Giant Spider Crab is not subject to large-scale commercial fishery because of difficulties in capturing them, it is restricted to a very small zone of habitation and hence its population is vulnerable to numerous threats. Efforts are made to protect Giant Japanese Spider Crabs from overfishing, for instance, by restocking the wild population with juvenile crabs artificially cultured in fisheries. In Japan, the law also prohibits fishermen from catching the crabs during the mating season, from January to April.

Watch a video about Japanese Spider Crabs filmed at the Osaka Aquarium.

Further reading:

Riebel W. Macrocheira kaempferi; online here.

Anon. 2014. Japanese Giant Spider Crab, Macrocheira kaempferi (introduction – habitats – biology – utilization); online here.

Anon. Japanese Spider Crab, Wikipedia.

AZA Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group. 2014. Japanese Spider Crab Care Manual. Silver Spring, MD: Association of Zoos and Aquariums. 60pp.

Since 2019, I have been working with two arachnological donations to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department: the spider collections by John Murphy comprising of more than 45,000 samples (donated in 2015), and by Richard Jones comprising of about 10,000 tubes (donated in 2017). Both collections are being recurated with the support from volunteers.  

Richard Jones (1943 – 2017) was an artist and professional photographer, and the author of many photographic identification guides, including “Country life guide to spiders of Britain and Northern Europe” published in 1983 (see obituary). John (b. 192?) and Frances (1926-1995) Murphy were the well-known British arachnologists; an account of their spider collection was recently published by myself (see paper). Richard Jones and John Murphy were close friends, active arachnologists and great contributors to the British Arachnological Society. Both were involved in many field collecting trips across the UK and overseas, published books and recorded spiders for the national Spider Recording Scheme.

During the recuration of Jones’ spider collection, I have encountered some interesting stories and specimens, particularly from Corfu, Greece, collected in March and April 1983 and from the Pyrénées-Orientales, France, collected in June 1982. The recuration process (viz., rehousing specimens from plastic to better-suited glass tubes) also faces some challenges. Among these are the updating of the taxonomy (i.e., providing them with correct and currently accepted names); counting all the specimens in each tube (sometimes over 100! in a tube); separating spiders from insects (e.g. flies, ants and wasps) and other invertebrates; and rehydrating dry specimens.

Curiosities from Corfu

1. The paratype of Dysdera murphyorum, family Dysderidae (Woodlouse Spiders), described by Deeleman-Reinhold in 1988, collected in Corfu in April 1983. This specimen is not only important for its scientific value (it is the specimen that was used to describe a new species) but also because the species was named after John Murphy and his wife Frances for their contributions to the arachnology. They spent more than 30 years assembling and working with an amazing spider collection.

2. Two unexpected scorpions from Kassiopi (a picturesque, touristy village in Corfu). Scorpions are in the same class as spiders (Arachnida) but belong to their own order Scorpiones. These specimens are from the genus Euscorpius, family Euscorpiidae.

3. Size differences between female and male spiders. Here, the much larger female of Eresus sp., family Eresidae (Velvet Spiders) next to the smaller male. Females are velvet black or dark grey whilst mature males have red bodies with four spots.

4. Specimens of Palpimanus gibbulus Dufour, 1820 from the family Palpimanidae (Palp-footed Spiders). Their dark red colour is still preserved in the abdomen and its front legs are larger and darker than the others. This species occurs the Mediterranean and Central Asia.

5. Scytodes thoracica (Latreille, 1802), Scytodidae (Spitting Spiders). This spider spits a silk-venomous substance over its prey. The yellowish colour in the body and the stripes in their legs are still visible.

Peculiarities from the Pyrenees

Part of the history of the British Arachnological Society is entangled with this collection. I have found specimens collected during the first BAS meeting outside Britain at Mas Forge Field Centre in France, 5th – 12th June, 1982. Seven members of the BAS (including John and Frances Murphy and Richard Jones) and four Belgium arachnologists enjoyed the trip to the Pyrénées-Orientales in southern France. A brief account of the trip, including descriptions of the species found and places visited, was published in the BAS Newsletter No. 35 (Parker, 1982).

1. The group explored the paths around the field centre, this specimen of the pale Cheiracanthium mildei L. Koch, 1864, Cheiracanthiidae (Sac Spiders) was possibly collected on the first day of the trip around the field centre.

2. Evarcha jucunda (Lucas, 1846), Salticidae (Jumping Spiders). This specimen was collected in Vingrau, a small village in Languedoc – Roussillon region. This species only occurs naturally in the Mediterranean region.

3. Zodarion rubidum Simon, 1914, Zodariidae (Ant Spiders). This small specimen was collected at Col de Jou (1125 m). This species is originally from western France but can now be seen in central Europe. It mimics red ants.

4. Aculepeira ceropegia (Walckenaer, 1802), Araneidae (Typical Orb Weaver Spiders). This species is more frequent at higher altitudes, it was found on Mont-Louis (1200 m).

5. Misumena vatia (Clerck, 1757), Thomisidae (Typical Crab Spiders). This spider, as the name suggests, looks like a small crab. It was collected at the edge of the Pyrenees in a wood with cork oaks on the last day of the trip. Adults change colour, camouflaging themselves against their background, in order to capture insects, especially on flowers.

Having been on holiday to the same place in the summer of 2019, I totally agree when Frances Murphy who wrote in her account of the trip that her only complaint was that ‘a week is too short’. The collection has many specimens of great value, waiting for their hidden stories to be shared, including this fly that bit Richard Jones!


Arzuza Buelvas, D. 2018. The Murphy spider collection at the Manchester Museum: a valuable research resource for arachnologists. JoNSC 6: 48-5. O’Neill, G. 1995. Frances Mary Murphy (1926-1995). Newsl. Br. arachnol. Soc. 74: 3-4. Parker, J.R. 1982. Arachnological History: The B.A.S. Meeting at Mas Forge Field Centre in France, 5th-12th June 1982. Newsl. Br. arachnol. Soc. 35: 1-2 Smith, H. 2018. Obituary: Richard David Curtis (Dick) Jones 1943-2017. Newsl. Br. arachnol. Soc.141: 12

In the last few months many activities have taken place in and around our temporary exhibition on the top floor of Manchester Museum, ‘Beauty and the Beasts; falling in love with insects’. For example, children and young people, from under 5s to teenagers, were invited to send stories involving insects to help us create the next great Creepy-Crawly Chronicle, following in the footsteps of the Hungry Caterpillar. There is still time to enter the Children’s Story Competition, see here for more information.

Inspired by the amazing creatures in Beauty and the Beast Exhibition and the insects on the handling table, younger visitors created their very own creepy-crawly characters.


The exhibition has also been used as a space to relax and enjoy, for example, hosting one of the wellbeing sessions for Natural Sciences students at the University of Manchester. After a brief introduction, the students made their way into exhibition to explore the insects’ shapes and colours, admiring strange and peculiar creatures using magnifying glasses. They also experimented with the exhibition’s digital content by scanning the QR-tag on some of the cases, tried out the microscopes and wrote letters to insects, among other activities.

The students were also invited to draw and create their own creepy-crawly characters, see below for some of the amazing drawings and ideas, including where the character is from, what they like and dislike and what is special about them. Here are some of the characters suggested by the students:

  • Hobbelklumps are from Foreverland, like warm spots of sunlight and Nutella, dislike salmon and sunlight follows them wherever they go.
  • Bumbleflies are from New Zealand, like flowers, dislike water and their wings are asymmetrical.
  • Mermaid-flies are from Bury, like tomatoes, dislike techno and can fly and swim.


The ‘Beauty and the Beasts’ exhibition has created a space not only to see the work of researchers and artists, but also to enjoy the colours, patterns, shapes and myths surrounding these small creatures. The exhibition is also about exploring and using the gallery’s space from a different perspective. There are still a lot of events and activities planned for this exhibition, get in touch if you would like to be involved. Follows us on twitter and Instagram, #MMBeautyandtheBeasts.



Dmitri Logunov, Curator of Arthropods, installing a central display case of the exhibition.

At the Manchester Museum, we opened a new temporary exhibition devoted to insects and other creepy-crawlies as inspirational tools for non-entomologists. The exhibition is called ‘Beauty and the Beasts: falling in love with insects’ and is about the cultural entomology rather than insects themselves. It is experimental in many ways. For instance, we provided the introductory panel in 18 different languages. Each display case has its own QR-tag, so that a visitor can scan it and get directly to the detailed description of its content with images of individual objects displayed. This tool is especially useful for visually impaired visitors. The entire content of the exhibition is accessible online and can be seen at: https://mmbeautyandthebeasts.wixsite.com/mmbeautyandthebeasts

If someone is interested, please, visit the site and let us know what you think. There is an option to leave your comments online. Any positive and critical comments are welcome. Thank you.


Entrance to the new exhibition. The Manchester Museum.


A caterpillar (the witchery grub) of the Carpenter Moth, family Cossidae (left), and the Giant Water Bug (Belostoma sp.) (right) from the insect collections of the Manchester Museum.

The following story was prepared by Jamie Burnett, the third year undergraduate student of the University of Manchester, who spent few months in the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department in 2019 helping us out as a volunteer.

In their book, “Man Eating Bugs”, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio ask a Ugandan policeman named David to try some palm worms they have collected; he refuses vehemently, finding the idea off-putting. Faith then asks if he eats termites or grasshoppers, which he enthusiastically admits he does – “Yes, they are very good(Menzel et al., 1998). Why is he perfectly happy to eat one type of insect, but another is repulsive to him? This is a useful example of how a person’s taste is shaped by their culture, which dictates what is considered edible.

Eating insects, known as entomophagy, has been promoted as an alternative to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork or beef. Containing high levels of protein and fat, as well as calcium, iron and zinc, edible insects are capable of replacing meat nutritionally, and already appear in many traditional diets around the world. Furthermore, insect rearing for consumption is fairly cheap, does not require high technology equipment or land clearing, and emits fewer greenhouse gases than most livestock. Due to their cold-blooded nature, insects are also very efficient at converting feed into protein, much more so than cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens (Van Huis, 2013).

If entomophagy is cheap, healthy and good for the environment, why isn’t everyone doing it? We return to David, the Ugandan policeman, to shed some light on this question. His response, instant disgust, is the same that many Europeans or North Americans would feel if offered an insect-based snack – this disgust could be due to the pathogen-avoidance mechanism, shared by humans and many other animals. This mechanism protects us from parasites and infection by provoking disgust and repulsion to anything considered to be a source of pathogens, such as mouldy food (Sarabian et al., 2018).

Culture, however, plays an important role in this process; as children we learn from our parents what is worth eating and what to avoid. As this differs according to location and climate, so too do tastes and diets. In tropical climates, insects tend to be larger and gather in significant numbers, with a variety of different species available at predictable harvest times throughout the year. As such, insects feature in many different tropical diets and there is less aversion against using them as food. In comparison, large domesticated mammals (such as cows) were more reliable in temperate climates, with the added benefits of providing milk products, leather and a means of transport. Therefore, insects were of little use (aside from honeybees) and are now mainly thought of as pests (Van Huis, 2013).

However, as the climate changes and food security becomes a rising concern, perhaps we should take note from those cultures that embrace entomophagy, and try Australian witchetty grub soup or a Cambodian deep-fried tarantula. As well as doing your bit for the planet, you might surprise yourself and find a new favourite food!

If you’re interested in reading about entomophagy, the article by Van Huis provides a wealth of information about scientific, commercial and social aspects, whilst “Man Eating Bugs” is a much more personal, humorous book of a couple’s journey to explore different cultures which eat insects.

Please, also visit our previous blog post devoted to the same topic.


Van Huis, A. (2013) Edible insects : future prospects for food and feed security.

Menzel, P. and D’Aluisio, F. (1998) Man eating bugs : the art and science of eating insects.

Sarabian, C., Curtis, V. and McMullan, R. (2018) ‘Evolution of pathogen and parasite avoidance behaviours.’, Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences. The Royal Society, 373(1751). doi: 10.1098/rstb.2017.0256.


Daniel Hall working in the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department (October 2019).

The Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department welcomes all kinds of visitors. Yet researchers represent the bulk of them. They not only use our collections for their scholarly, insect-related research, but also help with identifying and updating the nomenclature of our huge invertebrate collections. Here is a short report on one of the Masters students, Daniel Hall from the Manchester Metropolitan University, who spent a week in the department familiarizing himself with the British flies (Diptera).


Recently I had the pleasure of spending a week working within the Entomology department at Manchester Museum, using the facilities and collections in research for my Masters dissertation project in Biological Recording at Manchester Metropolitan University. The project involves the identification of Diptera (true flies) specimens that were collected as part of an experimental study of the effect of Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor L., on grassland communities. The results of this study showed complex interactions between genetic diversity of Yellow Rattle, parasite establishment, and plant community structure, and now we are starting to look at how to incorporate invertebrate data into these analyses.

Specimens collected during the study have been awaiting identification for a few years now, and I am using the reference collection and microscopes at the Manchester Museum to identify a subset of them using traditional techniques. I am also using DNA barcoding methods to supplement and expand on the identifications of these specimens, allowing comparison of the two different methods as well as hopefully allowing for identification of poorly preserved specimens. This data will help determine what direction should be taken for identification of other groups from this study and to help streamline the incorporation of invertebrate data into the ecological conclusions of this and further studies.

This has been made possible only through the availability of the collection resources at the Museum, as well by the assistance and enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers in the  Entomology Department.


One of the most important ways of expressing the scientific value of natural history collections is the production of collection-based papers. This blog explores our commitment to making the arthropod collection of the Manchester Museum available for research and overviews the papers published between August 2018 and July 2019. In all cases, the Manchester Museum is used as a permanent depository of the studied type and voucher specimens.

In total, 28 scientific papers based on specimens or data from the Museum’s Entomology Collection were published by researchers from nine countries (France, Belgium, Russian, Brazil, Poland, China, Iran, South Africa and the UK). The researchers were from research institutes, museums and universities, including, Institute of Systematic and Ecology of Animals (Russia), Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (Brazil), Entomological Society (China), Insect Centre (Russia), Muséum des Sciences Naturelles et de Préhistoire de Chartres (France), University of Wroclaw (Poland), University of Tehran (Iran), The University of Manchester (UK) and the associated staff of Manchester Museum.

The University of Manchester staff and volunteers (Professor Laurence Cook, Michael Dockery, Claire Miles, Diana Arzuza, and Dr Dmitri Logunov) published seven articles, describing collectors and important and unusual collections, for example:

  • The entomological legacy of Robert Wylie Lloyd (1868–1958), who made a major donation to the Entomology Department; the extent of his donation (British and European beetles and butterflies) and his motivation as a naturalist are discussed (Cook L. 2019).
  • An overview of the John and Francis Murphy Spider Collection, the largest one ever acquired by the Museum and its description as a valuable resource for arachnologists (Arzuza Buelvas D. 2019).
  • A complete summary of the Sphingidae (hawkmoths) collection held in the Manchester Museum’s Lepidoptera collection, incuding a full species list (British and worldwide) and information about collectors and collections (Miles C. 2019).
  • The Lepidoptera collection of William Raymond Wooff (1929–2006), the content of this unusual collection (butterfly/moth wings mounted on index cards), with reliable data about distribution and habitat, is explored in this paper (Dockery M. & Logunov D.V. 2018).
  • Examples of industrial melanism and its rapid adaptive response to a changing environment in Britain in 19th century using specimens of the Peppered Moth (Cook L. 2018).
  • An obituary of Dr Eric Duffey, British arachnologist, ecologist and conservationist; details of his professional life and contribution to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology collection are given (Logunov D.V. 2019).
Example of an index card with mounted wings from the Lepidoptera collection of William Raymond Wooff.
Drawer with Blue butterflies, Polyommatus bellargus (Rottemburg) and P. coridon (Poda), in R.W. Lloyd’s Lepidoptera collection.

Topics covered by the publications include taxonomy, systematics and phylogeny (18 papers), including descriptions of new species and genera, and new faunistic records. Three papers were focused on surveys and one is an identification guide. Taxa in such publications included species of Araneae (spiders), Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (butterflies), Phasmatodea (stick insects), Mantodea (mantis) and Trichoptera (caddis flies), see Figure 1.

Figure 1. The taxa covered by papers published between August 2018 and July 2019 using the Entomology Collection of the Manchester Museum. ‘Other’ includes non taxonomic, museological publications, such as those describing collectors and/or collections and their history.

The order Araneae (spiders) is the group with the most papers published (13 in total), this is mainly due to the taxonomic expertise and scientific connections of the current Curator of Arthropods, Manchester Museum. Dr Dmitri Logunov has described two new spider species, including a jumping spider from Hong Kong that mimics lichen moth caterpillars and is named after the famous US childrens’ author, Eric Carle, who published the book ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (Logunov D.V. & Obenauer S. 2019). This new species was discovered during a City Nature Challenge event in a park on the outskirts of Hong Kong. See here for more information.

General appearance of live male of Uroballus carlei n. sp. (holotype ♂) photograph from the original paper.

Coleoptera represented the second taxa with most papers published (7 in total). The papers included descriptions of new species from the Himalayas, new records and identification keys from the Brazilian Amazon Region, a monograph of the Afrotropical Cassidinae with description of seven new species, and taxonomy reviews and new species from southern Asia.

The order Trichoptera (caddis flies) featured in phylogenetic research and in a revision of a ‘chimeric’ European genus. The order Phasmatodea (stick insects) featured in a description of three new stick insect species from Vietnam, and Mantodea (praying mantises) in the description of a new genus and two new species of praying mantis from the Vietnam.

All the publications were peer-reviewed. The most popular journals for these publications were Arthopoda Selecta (specialised in morphology, taxonomy, life histories, zoogeography, phylogeny and evolution of arthropods); Zootaxa (journal for animal taxonomists) and the British entomological journal ‘Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine’ published four times a year.

Recurated British Lepidoptera Collection. Bee and Hummingbird Hawkmoths (Hemaris and Macroglossum species).

A complete list of publications:

  1. Arzuza Buelvas D. 2019. The Murphy spider collection at the Manchester Museum: a valuable research resource for arachnologists. Journal of Natural Science Collections, 6: 48-59.
  2. Azarkina G.N. & L.A. Trilikauskas. 2019. Halocosa gen.n., a new genus of Lycosidae (Araneae) from the Palaearctic, with a redescription of H. cereipes (L. Koch, 1878). Zootaxa, 4629(4): 555-570. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4629.4.4
  3. Azarkina G.N. & Zamani A. 2019. The Aelurillina Simon, 1901 (Aranei: Salticidae) of Iran: a check-list and three new species of Aelurillus Simon, 1884 and Proszynskiana Logunov, 1996. Arthropoda Selecta, 28(1): 83-97.
  4. Bevilaqua M. & da Fonseca C.R.V. 2018. Passalidae (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea) from the west-most Brazilian Amazon Region: checklist, new records, and identification key. Neotrop. Entomolol. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13744-018-0656-x
  5. Borowiec L. & Świętojańska J. 2018. A monograph of the Afrotropical Cassidinae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Part 5. Revision of the genus Aethiopocassis Spaeth. Zootaxa, 4488(1): 001-099. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4488.1.1
  6. Cook L. 2018. Records of industrial melanism in British moths. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2018, XX: 1-5.
  7. Cook L. 2019. Beetles, butterflies and bibliophilia: the entomological legacy of Robert Wylie Lloyd. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 155: 3-14.
  8. Dockery M. & Logunov D.V. 2018. The Lepidoptera Collection of William Raymond Wooff (1929–2006) in the Manchester Museum. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine, 154: 271-295.
  9. Ho W.C.G., 2018. Three new species of genus Pylamenes Stal (Phasmatodea: Heteropteridae: Dataminae) from Vietnam. Zoological Systematics, 43(3): 276-282.
  10. Kazantsev S.V. 2018. New and little known species of Lycostomus Motschulsky, 1861 (Coleoptera: Lycidae) from southern Asia. Russian Entomological Journal, 27(4): 371-380.
  11. Keith D. 2019. Sur Phaeochrous pseudintermedius Kuijten, 1978 (Coleoptera Scarabaeoidea Hybosoridae). L’Entomologiste, 75(2): 101-102.
  12. Lecigne S., Cornic J.-F., Oger P. & van Keer J. 2019. Celerrimus n. gen. (Araneae, Philodromidae) et description de Celerrimus duffeyi n. sp., une espèce très singuliere d’Europe occidentale. Revue arachnologique, serie 2, no 6: 32-51.
  13. Logunov D.V. 2019. Obituary: Eric Arthur Gerald Duffey 1922-2019. Arachnology, 18(1): 47-52.
  14. Logunov D.V. 2019. Taxonomic notes on the Harmochirina Simon, 1903 from South and South-East Asia (Aranei: Salticidae). Arthropoda Selecta, 28(1): 99-112.
  15. Logunov D.V. & Obenauer S. 2019. A new species of Uroballus Simon, 1902 (Araneae: Salticidae) from Hong Kong, a jumping spider that appears to mimic lichen moth caterpillars. Israel Journal of Entomology, 49(1): 1-9. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.2632730
  16. Logunov D.V. & Schäfer M. 2019. A new species of Pseudomogrus Simon, 1937 (Araneae: Salticidae) from the Canary Islands. Arachnology, 18(2): 121-126.
  17. Miles, C. 2019. Sphingidae (Lepidoptera) in the collections of Manchester Museum. Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 155: 77-106.
  18. Nekhaeva A.A., Marusik, Yu.M., Buckle D. 2019. A survey of the Siberio-Nearctic genus Masikia Millidge, 1984 (Aranei: Linyphiidae: Erigoninae). Arthropoda Selecta, 28(1): 157-168.
  19. Olah J., Andersen T., Beshkov S., Ciubuc C., Coppa G., Ibrahimi H., Kovacs T., Olah J. (JR.) & Szczesny B. 2018. Unified phylogenetic species concept: taking subspecies and race out of science: postmodern theory applied to the Potamophylax cingulatus group (Trichoptera, Limnephilidae). Opusc. Zool. Budapest, 49(1): 33-70.
  20. Oláh J., Andersen T., Beshkov S., Coppa G., Ruiz Garcia A. & Johanson K.A. 2019. Revision of European Wormaldia species (Trichoptera, Philopotamidae): Chimeric taxa of integrative organization. Opusc. Zool. Budapest, 50(1): 31-85.
  21. Rücker W.H. 2018. Latridiidae und Merophysiidae der Wets-Paläarktis. Neuwied, W.H. Rücker Selbstverlag, 676 pp.
  22. Tshernyshev S. & Kopetz A. 2018. Myrmecospectra Motchulsky, 1858 – the correct name for Myrmecophasma Bourgeois, 1885 (Insecta: Coleoptera: Cleroidea: Malachiidae), with a review of species and a description of a new species from the Himalayas. In: Hartman M., Barclay M.V.L. & Weipert J. (eds), Biodiversität und Naturausstattung im Himalaya VI., Verein der Freunde und Förderer des Naturkundemuseum Erfurt, Erfurt, pp. 443-453.
  23. Vermeersch X.H.C., Stiewe M.B.D. & Shcherbakov E.O. 2019. A new genus of praying mantis, Chlorocalis n. gen., with two new species from the Greater Mekong region (Mantodea: Mantidae), Annales de la Société entomologique de France (N.S.). https://doi.org/10.1080/00379271.2018.1562380
  24. Zamani A. & Marusik Yu.M. 2018. A new species of the hersiliid spiders (Aranei: Hersiliidae) from Iran. Euroasian Entomological Journal, 17(4): 273-275.
  25. Zamani A. & Marusik Yu.M. 2018. New species and records of Filistatidae (Arachnida: Aranei) from Iran. Arthropoda Selecta, 27(2): 121-128.
  26. Zamani A., Marusik Yu.M. & Malek-Hosseini M.J. 2018. A new species of Tegenaria Latreille, 1804 (Araneae: Agelenidae) from western Iran. Zootaxa, 4444(1): 95–97.
  27. Zamani A., Seiedy M., Saboori A. & Marusik Yu.M. 2018. The spider genus Pterotricha in Iran, with the description of a new genus (Araneae, Gnaphosidae). ZooKeys, 777: 17-41.
  28. Zonstein S. 2018. A revision of the spider genus Anemesia (Araneae, Cyrtaucheniidae). European Journal of Taxonomy 485: 1–100. https://doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2018.485