By Rachel Parle, Public Engagement Manager
The Museum’s collection of British insects already houses over a million specimens, and now it boasts one more special insect.
Ten-year-old Sarah Thomas of Abbey Woods Academy in Berinsfield, Oxfordshire discovered a rare beetle in her school grounds while taking part in a Museum outreach session. To Sarah’s excitement, the beetle is so important that it has now become part of the collections here at the Museum – and it is the first beetle of its kind to be added to the historically important British insect collections since the 1950s.
Sarah’s class took part in a Project Insect Discovery Day, where they were visited by a professional entomologist, learnt about insect anatomy and how to identify and classify specimens, and went on the hunt for insects in the school grounds. Project Insect is reaching out to pupils in state primary schools across Oxfordshire, using the Museum’s British insect collection to spark curiosity and foster a love of natural history. It’s all part of a bigger project at the Museum, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to safeguard these important collections for the future.
After some searching, Sarah spotted a 5mm insect lurking under a leaf. To the untrained eye it looked rather like any other tiny shiny beetle, but luckily Darren Mann, head of the Museum’s Life Collections, was visiting as part of the Project Insect team. Darren spotted it as something unusually and took it back to the Museum to get a closer look under the microscope. He was then able to identify it as a False Darkling Beetle.
It’s Anisoxya fuscula, which is rated as Nationally Scarce in Great Britain. We seldom see these outside old forest habitats and this is the first beetle of its kind to be added to the collections for around 70 years.
– Darren Mann, Head of Life Collections
The tiny beetle has been labelled with Sarah’s name and the location of her find, and added to the British insect collection. Though she’s very excited to have her specimen in the collections, Sarah admits that she hasn’t always been a big fan of insects:
Before Project Insect I didn’t really like insects, but now I really do.
– Sarah Thomas
Everyone at the Museum is really pleased with Sarah’s fantastic find and we hope it spreads the word to inspire others to become budding young entomologists too.