Archive for October, 2010

The past week (25-29th of October) at the Manchester Museum was devoted to the Manchester Science Festival. Visitors not only enjoyed permanent and temporary museum exhibitions, participated in numerous activities arranged for them by the museum staff, but also visited certain collection areas hidden behind the scenes. Amongst visitors to the Museum’s Entomology Department there were three aspiring young scientists, supervised by their teacher, who were much interested in examining spiders under the microscope.

Raquel, Wanda and Dan examining spiders from the Manchester Museum's collection.

This is what they said after their visit:

Raquel (aged 9):  “I really enjoyed looking at the spiders…the thing that I loved most was drawing on the hairy detail.”

Wanda (aged 10): “Thank you for spending time answering all our questions…I’ve learnt a lot about arachnids and their body parts. I was surprised how cute the jumping spiders actually looked under the microscope.”

Dan (aged 9): “Thank you Dmitri for everything, especially showing us the minute amazing detail …Fangs and eyes were my favourite…It was a special treat.”

Raquel and Wanda handling tarantula.

Dmitri, the curator, and Dan, a future arachnologist.

Fiona (the teacher): I really enjoyed learning how amazing these tiny everyday creatures are…the way they see, move, hunt and grow was a revelation. Learning first hand from an expert was a fantastic opportunity and really brought the science to life for all of us.”


I wish to thank Fiona for sharing her and children’s impressions with me (Dmitri).

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The Comet Moth (Argema mittrei), or Madagascan moon moth, is the one of the largest species of wild silk moths (family Saturniidae), found only in the rainforests of certain parts of Madagascar. A male wingspan is of up to 20cm wide, and a tail span of 15cm long. Its caterpillars feed only on fresh eucalyptus leaves. The adult moths do eat and lives for 4 to 5 days; they are only fertile the first day after getting out of the cocoon. The species is seriously threatened in the wild due to habitat loss. However, the moth is relatively easy to breed in captivity. For more information see: here and here.

The male of Comet Moth from the collection of Manchester Museum.

The photographed specimen is the male and one of the three specimens of this unique species collected from Madagascar in the 19th century and retained in the Manchester Museum. Most probably, these specimens were purchased from one of the London natural history dealers at the end of 19th century. These specimens constitute a valuable part of C.H. Schill World Lepidoptera collection acquired by the Manchester Museum in March 1895.

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