The collections house over 5 million insect specimens; in the UK they are second only, in size and importance, to the national insect collection at the Natural History Museum in London. We are using butterflies, moths, bees and beetles from the collections, as source material for our images, and taking some of them on tour with the exhibitions.
As well as curating and conserving, the collections staff are engaged in research projects studying the biology, ecology, distribution and conservation of species, and lecturing in their own specialisms.
Dave’s team was able to obtain tissue samples from short-haired bumblebees in the Hope Entomological Collection, from bees that were collected in the UK before they became extinct. After comparing the DNA with that of the specimens from New Zealand, they established that this population had far too little genetic variation – they were too inbred and unlikely to be robust enough to survive relocation to Britain. The project to reintroduce short-haired bumblebees continues using bees with more genetic diversity, from Sweden.
The museum and its collections has inspired our work and we extend sincere thanks to Darren Mann, Head of Life Collections, and his team for their support, time and patience. Thanks to James Hogan for assistance with the collection of UK bumblebee species, Katherine Child for her technical expertise with electron microscope imaging and the brilliant Amoret Spooner for climbing ladders and trudging labyrinthine corridors on quests to meet our demands for specimens!