Katherine Child has spent a lot of time photographing the Hope Entomological collections at the Museum; you may remember her beautiful work from the Light Touch exhibition in 2014. But with somewhere between 5 and 6 million insects in the collection, there is still plenty to explore.
Since September she’s been working on a project to photograph African moths and their labels for www.africanmoths.com, which aims to provide as much information as possible for the identification and recording of moths throughout the African continent. The site already displays thousands of images of stunning specimens, some taken in their natural environment and others from collections such as the one here in Oxford.
Katherine reveals some of the challenges and delights of her work:
One of the best things about this project for me is probably the fact that it involves exploring the collections to find all the moths that I need to document. The cabinets in the Shelford room, where some of the Lepidoptera are kept, contain drawer after drawer of beautiful and fascinating specimens, and trying to track down a particular moth is a good excuse to browse through the hundreds that are up there.
The photos below show some of my favourite specimens from those I’ve photographed so far. Some I like just for aesthetic reasons, others have interesting historic labels, are cleverly camouflaged or have appealing names.
Paralacydes arborifera, for instance, is named because of the pattern on its wings; arbori is Latin for tree and fera refers to a beast or creature. It is easy to see why this moth was named “tree-beast”.
Amphicallia bellatrix was presumably given the name Bellatrix (meaning warrioress, war-like or ferocious) because of its striking warning colours. As with the stripes on a bee or wasp, yellow and black tends to mean danger in the natural world.
It is always interesting to see a little more information about how the specimens were found or caught. The description on the label below records how the moth was initially mistaken for a froghopper when caught by ‘boy’, and was only later identified to be a moth.
I look forward to photographing many more moths over the months to come!
Katherine Child, Image Technician, Life Collections