One of the reasons we love volunteering is because we get to go behind the scenes in the Museum.
Today we volunteered in Entomology with Phil Rispin. Entomology is the study of insects. It sounded very boring but it certainly wasn’t. When entering there is a funny odour which permeates throughout the room, apparently it’s part of the preservation process. The room is lined with old and interesting wooden cabinets and draws that are clearly labelled. These draws hold the third largest insect collection in the UK.
The first drawer we were shown was full of huge beautiful butterflies, these were the “Queen Alexandra Bird Wings” from Papua New Guinnea. The female is at least six inches long and the largest butterfly species in the world. The male is smaller and more brightly coloured. Did you know that what gives the colours on butterfly’s wings that look like tiny dust particles are in fact tiny scales? If handling butterflies you have to be very careful as these rub off very easily, exposing the wing’s framework which is transparent. This can be dangerous for live species in preventing their ability to fly properly as well.
Another insect we saw was the Jewelled Beetle. Now this is an amazing beetle with an iridescent wing case of purples and greens. We have found a picture of a dress which was made for an actress playing Lady McBeth in Victorian times. It has recently been restored and you can see that it is covered with the iridescent wings of this beetle. For those who are worried, the insect naturally shed their wing cases as part of their life cycle, in order to grow.
Another sort of insect shown was the Madagascan Moon Moth, which likes to fly in the day time.
Finally, the edible “Witchiti Grub”, which native Australians consider a delicacy – UGH! Besides the large collection behind the scenes that we saw a tiny part of today, Manchester Museum has a large collection of insects on show on their galleries, and in the Vivarium where you can spot live beetles scurrying among the frogs and lizards.
So come along, we would love to see you!!
Written by Clare Whittan and Jackie Eaton.