The Edinburgh Natural History Society was invited to send a representative to the second meeting of the Royal Entomological Society Public Understanding of Entomology Special Interest Group. The meeting was held at the National Museum of Scotland on a very wet day in November 2018. Fifty people attended the meeting and the following were invited to speak:- Dr Helen Roy – Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Craig Macadam – Buglife, Nick Howe and Liam Crowley – Entocast, Richard Harrington – Rothamsted Research, Gabrielle Flinn – RSPB, Sally-Ann Spence – Minibeast Mayhem, Chris Jeffs – British Ecological Society, Gary Needham – Syngenta, Zoe Simmons – Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Anthony McCluskey – Butterfly Conservation, Apithanny Bourne – Artist and Scientist, Maya Leonard – Author of Beetle Boy and Luke Tilley – Royal Entomological Society.
Ashleigh Whiffin of Museum of Scotland played the role of host for the day.
I had a fantastic day with a group of people passionate about wanting the world to see the importance of insects. All the speakers had stories to share, however, hearing Helen Roy was special for me. Harlequin ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis, arrived in the UK in 2004 and Helen Roy, with others, has coordinated a recording scheme to monitor their expansion. Edinburgh seems to be at the leading edge having seen my first harlequin (1) in Edinburgh October 2017, then no more until late summer 2018. This autumn Edinburgh harlequin numbers are in the 10's not 100's or 1000's as in other parts of the UK. Interestingly, they have been found in areas that traditionally host 2-spot ladybirds, Adalia bipunctata,the 2-spots are still present. The harlequins are very attractive, variable in pattern and large; I will continue to hunt for and record them. As a point of note, those studying harlequins wish that people resist the temptation to kill the incomer. There are other native large ladybirds that are likely to become victims if miss-identified and even correct identification may not have any real impact on numbers. The survey is very well documented online with open sources of data. You can start your exploration here: www.ladybird-survey.org
At the end of the day the special interest group was renamed at EntoOutreach which hopefully gives a clear idea of it's purpose. I think that the study of insects is about to become more visible in Edinburgh.