Insect Week 20 – 26 June 2022

It is Insect Week and we thought we would ask our directors about their favourite insects.

Elizabeth Brunton, Deputy Director and Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society.

We work with lots of amazing insects ranging from the beautiful to the slightly less flamboyant, from the medically important insects to the ones we see every day in our gardens. My particular favourites are the insects we get sent found in food, merchandise, wooden items, and imported goods’. Whilst these insects shouldn’t really be there they are in their natural habitats and when we have made products from their homes sometimes they inevitably get included.

Back in 1999 we were sent a weevil found in a fruit yoghurt. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful beetle in that it wasn’t pretty coloured and it didn’t have interesting features. But it had chevrons on its shoulders and we affectionately named it the Sergeant Major Beetle. We identified it as being Rhyephenes humeralis from Chile where some of the fruit had been grown. A totally accidental inclusion and a very sad end for the beautiful beetle. He still sits on my desk even to this day.

Ian Burgess, Director, Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society

I don’t have a favourite insect, they are all amazing in their own way. But I do have a certain fondness for lice, particularly head lice where I have done much of my research.

However, if you were to ask me about one of the most intriguing insects it would be the Elephant seal louse, Lepidophthirus macrorhini, it can hold its breathe for up to 9 months – how? well it is a point many entomologists debate ranging from whether the louse gets its oxygen from the blood of the seal as it feeds, to the idea that it comes from the plastron of air that gets trapped around its spines on the surface of its body and acquires oxygen from the water that passes over this. A debate which I am sure will rumble on!