The launch of National Insect Week took place on the 23rd of July at the Natural History Museum in London, with bug enthusiasts and entomologists from all walks of life coming together to celebrate these weird and wonderful creatures.
The event was streamed live on YouTube (it’s still available), and highlighted the importance of dispelling the myths and fears/scepticism accompanied with our creepy crawly neighbours. The event was chaired by Johnathan Ross OBE along with a panel of five notable entomologists. As a former insect hater and quite ignorant of their value myself, I found the discussion incredibly inspiring, and it completely changed my own mind about something that I have feared since my teen years.
Insects are fundamental to society and vital to issues relating to international development, trade (such as the silk trade/ silk worm), pollinators, used for predictions about global warming and engaging children and adults alike to appreciate and understand the significance of one of our smallest relatives.
All five speakers had been bug lovers since young ages, describing funny anecdotes of them digging around in the dirt from age 5 and onwards. The questions that followed presented a lively and engaging debate on the loudest insect, unanimously the cicada, new discoveries, and the fastest insect (after some debate the tiger beetle, was suggested as a winner, which would be the equivalent of us running faster than the speed of sound!)
One of the key issues addressed was the concern for pollinators and more specifically what is happening to our bees and how can we prevent further declines? Though one possible solution could be growing more plants in our gardens that flower for longer, Tim Cockerill addressed the need to educate the public on the diversity of plants (different plants can have different pollinators).
Overall the event was a great success, with a lengthy Q and A session addressing questions like, ‘why do insects have six legs?’, ‘the loudest insect?’, and some of the more comical like ‘which insects fart?’ which we learnt was the bombardier beetle which excretes a hot, toxic foul smelling chemical, considerably more devastating than farting and a possible substitute for the whoopee cushion.
National Insect Week aims to advertise the importance of insects, partly because insects are still generally perceived in a negative way, so we might need to dress them up in fur and wigs to compete for the public’s affections.
The five speakers at the event were: Max Barclay (Collections Manager at the Natural History Museum), Sarah Beynon (Insect Ecologist and agricultural conservation biologist), Tim Cockerill (Zoologist and Flea Circus wrangler), Roger Key (Independent entomologist, environmental and educational consultant in North Yorkshire) and Andrew Polaszek (Research Leader in the Insect Division at the Natural History Museum).