AES Members’ Day

Saturday 29th April 2017

As a contribution to the Club’s microscopy outreach programme, Dennis Fullwood, Paul Smith and Alan Wood took along an assortment of specimens and stereomicroscopes to the 2017 Members’ Day and AGM of the Amateur Entomologists’ Society (AES), held this year in the Neil Chalmers Seminar Room at the Natural History Museum in London. The event was well organised, with members able to avoid the queues by using the Staff Entrance with free tickets from Eventbrite.

Displays were set out in the foyer, so everyone attending the AGM and the lectures had to walk past them. In addition to the AES and the Quekett displays, there were posters from the British Myriapod and Isopod Group and Earthworm Watch. The lectures were given by Alex Alvanis (Breeding Moths; Successes and Failures), James McCulloch (Hidden Lives), Helen Read (Mostly Millipedes) and Paul Eggleton (Eating soil, and other strange invertebrate diets).

Paul Eggleton delivering his lecturePaul Eggleton delivering his lecture

The AES had 2 tables in the foyer with their publications for adults and for children. They are much more successful than the Quekett at attracting young members, who join their Bug Club. There is an arrangement between the AES and the Quekett for members to attend each others’ meetings.

AES publicationsAES publications

Stephen Thomas was giving away adults and eggs of stick insects, which are quite easy to rear if you have a good supply of brambles for them to eat. We were able to handle them, much to the delight of children and adults.

Eurycantha calcarata, a stick insect from Papua New GuineaEurycantha calcarata, a stick insect from Papua New Guinea

Big stick insectAnother stick insect

Judith Rose showed caterpillars of the emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) that feed on hawthorn.

Caterpillars of the emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia)Caterpillars of the emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) on hawthorn

Victoria Burton had an exhibit on soil biodiversity, with 2 drawers of beetles from the Museum, a key to leaf litter invertebrates of the New Forest, and a stereomicroscope for viewing preserved soil arthropods.

Soil biodiversity exhibitSoil biodiversity exhibit

Beetles from leaf litterBeetles from leaf litter

Colin Hart was showing caterpillars of the oak eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) on blackthorn.

Caterpillars of the oak eggarCaterpillars of the oak eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) on blackthorn

The Quekett’s display occupied 2 tables, with 4 stereomicroscopes, one of which was fitted with a camera connected to a monitor, and Dennis Fullwood, Paul Smith and Alan Wood were kept busy with young and old visitors with all sorts of interests and questions.

Dennis Fullwood and Paul Smith with visitorsDennis Fullwood and Paul Smith with visitors; Sonia Bloom looking at amber

Dennis Fullwood used his Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope to show live arthropods in leaf litter, insects preserved in 40-million-year-old Baltic amber, and Victorian microscope slides of insects, including some by Fred Enock.

Leaf litterLeaf litter

Raw and polished Baltic amberRaw and polished Baltic amber

Victorian slides of insectsVictorian microscope slides of insects

Insect slide displayed on a monitorInsect slide displayed on a monitor

Paul Smith used a small stereomicroscope with a fixed 20× magnification to show star sand from Hatoma Island, Okinawa, Japan.

Paul Smith’s exhibitPaul Smith’s exhibit

Star sand from JapanStar sand from Japan

Alan Wood used his Olympus SZ4045 stereomicroscope and an LED ring-light to demonstrate lighting techniques suitable for insects, shadowless reflected light and transmitted dark-ground illumination.

The shadowless illuminator was constructed from an upward-pointing LED ring-light covered by an inverted kitchen bowl to reflect light down onto the specimen. A ring of white paper and and piece of white foam-board with a circular hole were used to keep direct light from the ring-light entering the microscope.

Construction of shadowless illuminator from LED ring-lightShadowless illuminator, showing (top left) specimen pinned into a Plastazote disc, (top right) ring of white paper, (bottom left) inverted bowl with base removed, and (bottom right) the complete illuminator.

With a small weevil, a desk lamp produced very different lighting from the shadowless illuminator, with more reflections and little sign of the blue iridescence.

Small weevil using a desk lamp and a shadowless illuminatorSmall weevil using a desk lamp (left) and a shadowless illuminator (right)

Alan used a home-made dark-ground illuminator to show a slide of a mosquito larva that had been prepared without pressure, and it gave an excellent stereo image.

Dark-ground illuminator for stereomicroscopeDark-ground illuminator for stereomicroscope

Using the same LED ring-light as the shadowless illuminator but with a black background for the specimen and a piece of black foam-board with a circular hole provides transmitted dark-ground illumination for microscope slides placed on the foam-board.

Construction of dark-ground illuminatorDark-ground illuminator, showing (left) black disc, (centre) inverted bowl with base removed, and (right) the complete illuminator

Dark-ground mosquito larvaLarva of a mosquito (Culex pipiens L.) with dark-ground illumination (slide by T. Gerrard & Co.)

The Quekett will have a display at the popular Annual Exhibition and Trade Fair of the Amateur Entomologists’ Society at Kempton Park Racecourse, Staines Road East, Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex, TW16 5AQ on Saturday 30th September 2017, starting at 11:00 a.m.

Report and photographs by Alan Wood

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