Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A new breed.

I wonder if there is any greater display of eccentricity than the annual exhibition of the Amateur Entomologist Society? It is held at Kempton Park every October and attracts thousands of butterfly, bee, beetle and stick insect enthusiast. There is much tweed in evidence, a fair number of spotty youths with shortish trousers and many of all ages who could do with paying more attention to their personal hygiene.

Not that I fall into any of those categories. But I must admit to being easily seduced by a fine display of hawk moths, and show me a perfect  specimen of Actias Luna (don't worry, detail not really important) and my wallet is out before ... well before I've told Jane anyway.

I first went to the exhibition when I was eleven - in the days when it was held in Kensington. In some ways not much has changed: the same interest groups (coleopterist, lepidopterists, odanatists, dipterists) proudly manning the displays of their somewhat peculiar passions; the same collector types drooling over second hand copies of Wayside and Woodland Beetles at £200; the same ruddy faced evangelicals promoting the 'bug club' for young entomologist.

I suppose there are fewer academic displays now (hardly any in fact); it's become more of trade show than a scientific gathering. But there were still little gems that still made me smile.  Like the guy who announced to the crowd - if anyone would like to know more about nematodes, I'll be free to give advice later.  Or the lady enquiring at the Watkins and Doncaster stand, Do you still have your shop in The Strand?  No madam, it closed before the war.  Pity, I was thinking of visiting for a moth trap...

But one difference was evident - a new breed of 'goth entomologists' threatening to usurp the resident nerds. Goth males were invariably in their late-teens or early twenties, resembling rejects from Games Workshop: multiple piercings, dagger tattoos and complexions that could do with more sun. Behaviourally, they made a bee line (entomology pun there) for the spider and scorpion dealers, after which, having stocked up nymphs and blowflies, they went looking for suitable mates.

And there appeared to be no shortage of stout females in black smocks - also with multiple piercings, dagger tattoos and complexions that could do with more sun.  Judging by the number copping off in the grounds of Kempton Park, I'd say breeding conditions were excellent and a good time was had by all.

On reflection, I'm not sure they're really very different.

As I walked to the car one of them was lying across the path, his head in a bush, groaning. Excuse me? I said testily, stepped over his Doc Martins and expecting a drunken grunt for my trouble. Oh, I'm so sorry, he replied in immaculate English... it's fascinating in there: dozens of larvae in about their third instar I'd say, and some very interesting beetles too. Woud you like a look...  I laughed all the way home.


  1. So no twenty four hour pub opening there, then.

    Studies should be made of enthusiast groups....over the years of supporting the Suffolk Horse Society, the frequenters of shows and seminars became almost as interesting as the horses.

  2. *shudders* I have a real phobia of moths and this extends to butterflies too even though I can appreciate their beauty and delicacy. I am now itching like crazy!

  3. I have always been fascinated by those boxed displays of moths, but especially butterflies. I would love to own one, something with species different to the ones we see here, some even out today... red admirals, commas, pretty blue ones, peacocks, beautiful, but common as muck!
    Great reading.. thanks.

  4. It's always great to be caught out - in a good way! Loved your descriptions here especially of the elderly lady asking about the Strand shop.

    I loved the recent news article of a French apartment in Paris having been closed up for 90 years and the the treasures they find within.

    When life doesn't correspond with the media's portrayal of it - that truly is flippin' marvellous!

  5. I used to love visiting the Rothchild museum in Tring, it's specimens are kept in little glass fronted cabinets with wooden doors to block the sunlight from the contents. Very old fashioned, charming and somehow very British :)

  6. First of all how lovely to see you back again, Mark. As for moths, butterflies etc - I love going to a butterfly park now and then, but I do not like to see big flappy moths in a room. In fact I am not mad on anything with wings inside a house - spiders I don't mind at all because they catch the insects that will bite me.

  7. I think you recommended The Behaviour of Moths to me...... the novel...I loved it. Thank you.
    I have a neighbour who is a moth expert, you have reminded me that I was going to recommend the novel to him.

  8. Aha, Cait above me - I loved that book too.... *big smile*
    But very sad indeed to hear the news about your son's rugby injury. Really really sorry to hear that - poor lad. :(