Book of the Week: Bumblebees

Continuing our selection of the very best titles available through NHBS:

Bumblebees

by Oliver E Prys-Jones and Sarah A Corbet

What?

Revised 3rd edition of this guide to bumblebees, no. 6 in the Naturalists’ Handbook series.
Bumblebees jacket image

Why?

Bumblebees are appealing insects, and a great subject for study. They are more approachable than honeybees and easy to observe in the garden or the open countryside. This revised edition of the classic Naturalists’ Handbook looks at species identification, ecology and conservation, and the variety of behaviours and lifestyles.

The information is presented in such a way that anyone with an interest in the natural history and conservation of bumblebees will be able to undertake their own useful investigations and add to the body of research which will hopefully allow these important pollinating insects to survive and thrive for future generations.

As well as colour plates for basic identification, there are further keys showing anatomical detail and species variation, and detailed range maps for regional identification.

Who?

Oliver E. Prys-Jones studied zoology at the University of St. Andrews and furthered a long term interest in bumblebees and their life histories with doctoral and research fellowship studies at the University of Cambridge. He subsequently qualified in medicine at Liverpool University and remains absorbed by bumblebees while working as a medical practitioner in North Wales.

Sarah A. Corbet has taught entomology and ecology in London University and the University of Cambridge. Her research interest is in pollination ecology, with a special focus on bumblebees.

Available Now from NHBS

Book of the Week: New Naturalist 117 – Plant Galls

Continuing our weekly selection of the very best titles available through NHBS:

Plant Galls

by Margaret Redfern

What?

The latest volume in the New Naturalists series takes on one of the more enigmatic aspects of botany.Plant Galls jacket image

Why?

Oak apples, robin’s pincushions, marble galls and witches’ brooms. Margaret Redfern’s expertise on the curious subject of plant galls, presented in this new volume in the New Naturalist series, opens a window onto a less considered aspect of botany. What are they? How are they formed? Here you will find insight into the organisms that cause plant galls, the structure and ecology of the galls themselves, and the effect these complex and diverse phenomena have on the host plants, as well as broader evolutionary and historical perspectives.

Margaret Redfern is an authority on plant galls who has written numerous books on the subject.

Available Now from NHBS

Close-up images of arthropod eyes

Close-up images of arthropod eyesWired Magazine has a series of stunning close-up images of insect eyes from previous year’s entries of Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition.

My favourite image has to be the  Klaus Bolte’s Tetse Fly (Glossina genus). Nikon also offer a daily ‘Identify the Image‘ challenge (I only got 3/5 today…).

Insectopedia – An Interview with Hugh Raffles

Insectopedia Jacket Image

We asked Hugh Raffles, author of Insectopedia, to give us a glimpse into the intriguing  subject matter of his new book. Here’s what he had to say:

What inspired you to write about insects?

Insects are fascinating. They exist in vast numbers and extraordinary diversity, and they’re ecologically and economically vital. They elicit intense and intensely ambivalent feelings from us – do they think? Do they feel? We’re not sure. Yet, as Elias Canetti put it, they’re “outlaws” and we kill them not just with impunity but, often, satisfaction. They’re mysterious, powerful, and our relations with them are very complicated. I find that a pretty inspiring combination.

What is your earliest insect memory?

When I was little, we used to go to Norfolk for a few weeks every summer. My mum would put a jam jar part-filled with water on our kitchen windowsill. Attracted by the jam, the wasps would land on the rim and fall into the trap. I’d watch for hours, fascinated but immobilized – too scared to rescue them but horrified by their struggles. I’m sure I had happier insect encounters, but that’s the one that’s stayed with me all these years!

Tell me about ‘mushi-eyes’ and ‘konchu-shonen’ – do you now have them, and are you one?

‘Konchu-shonen’ (insect-boy) and ‘mushi (insect)-eyes’ are terms I learned in Japan while researching the chapter on Japanese beetle collecting. I was fascinated to discover that so many celebrated Japanese artistic figures, including pioneers of anime and manga such as Tezuka Osamu and Hayao Miyazaki, had been obsessive insect-lovers as children. Once you know that, you see it clearly reflected in their work. Yoro Takeshi, a well-known neuroanatomist and popular writer in Japan, was also a ‘konchu-shonen.’ He told me that spending time with insects gives you ‘insect-eyes’ – an enhanced sensitivity to small differences, to the individuality of plants, animals, and people, and to the existence of multiple, intersecting worlds. I came to a love of insects pretty late in life but like to think I developed a little mushi-vision over the course of writing this book.

The chapters in Insectopedia are as much about people as they are about insects. Do you draw any parallels?

I’m wary of drawing these kinds of parallels. It’s too easy to project our dreams and ideologies onto animals and find the lessons that suit our purpose. I’m an anthropologist, not an entomologist and I like to explore the worlds that humans and insects create together in our entwined lives on this planet. There’s a lot to learn about both people and insects from looking closely at these connections. One of the things I’ve loved about writing this book has been meeting people who are deeply connected to insects, maybe as artists, musicians, farmers, scientists, or collectors, and learning about insects through their experience. That’s been very inspiring.

Which is your favourite story from the book?

My favorite fieldwork was in Shanghai, meeting people who trained crickets to fight and going to the casino to watch the battles. My favorite story though is about Yajima Minoru, a prominent and innovative designer of Japanese insect zoos. Mr. Minoru was present during the bombing of Tokyo in 1945. As we know, the destruction was immense, more people were killed in the raids and the firestorm they generated than in the nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mr. Minoru describes wandering dazed through the smouldering city among the traumatized population, in deep shock and despair. Then, in a crater, half-filled with water, he sees a dragonfly perched on a floating twig, laying her eggs. He takes it as a sign of rebirth amidst the rubble. The sight of this insect tells him that there’s a possibility of overcoming the nightmare and that there’s still a future to live for. This was a dramatic and moving story, but it wasn’t unusual to meet people who found in insects similar emotional strength and also refuge from difficult personal experiences.

If you could be an insect for a day, which would you be?

One of the 24-hour adult mayflies. I could live my entire life in the time allotted!

You obviously have a great love of diversity – have you always been a collector of specimens?

I do love the diversity of insects but I’m not actually a collector of specimens. I have a low-level kleptomania that makes it hard for me not to pick up stones, shells, dead insects, and other little things, and I have a desk cluttered up with that kind of stuff. But I’m not attracted to the killing and manipulation that’s involved in collecting. And, in fact, I’m not really attracted to collections. As I say somewhere in the book, they remind me of mausoleums – the transformation of living beings into aestheticized objects makes me a bit uneasy.

I was speaking metaphorically. The book is like a cabinet of curiosities and your interests so far-reaching…

Oh, that kind of collector! Yes, I do have some of that early modern curiosity. Happily, insects are everywhere and I had a lot of fun following them into unexpected and obscure places, and along the way learning about all kinds of topics about which I knew very little.

Does Insectopedia have an overall message?

It may sound clichéd, but I think of the book as a journey. It’s an exploration into our deep and varied connections with one part of the natural world. More than anything, I hope it creates reflection and helps people look at insects with slightly different eyes and slightly different feelings. If there is a message, it’s one that we already know: We’re all in this together!

What are your favourite natural history books?

I have a fondness for 19th-century naturalists which I developed when I was writing my first book, In Amazonia: A Natural History. I especially like Henry Walter Bates’ A Naturalist on the River Amazons and Alfred Russel Wallace’s Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro. Both books offer such a strong sense of first-hand experience and the unfolding struggle to understand the totality of a world so different from the one these two men left behind in England.

Who are your heroes in your field?

I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant but I don’t have heroes. However, I’ve come away from this book full of admiration for many of the people I spent time with. One of them is Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, a Swiss artist who, for more than 30 years, has been painting tiny insects she’s collected close to nuclear power plants around the world and is convinced that the high incidences of deformities she’s found are the result of low-level radiation. Her paintings are beautiful and disturbing and her discoveries should make us hesitate in the current rush to embrace nuclear power as a “green” energy source.

If you could spend a month working in another field, which would you choose?

I’d have to say marine biology. It’s always been my fantasy to spend time in the deep ocean. It might be the only landscape on this planet even more alien than the land of insects!

What will you be working on next?

I’m starting research on a book about rocks and stones. It’s a big project and I’m looking forward to getting going. Last summer I began some fieldwork in China and in a few weeks I’ll be going to the UK to visit a few megalithic sites. I’m very excited about it!

Buy Insectopedia now.

Visit Hugh Raffles’ Insectopedia site.

Guide to Robinson Moth Traps

Robinson Moth Traps are the preferred choice amongst many serious entomologists because they offer the highest attraction and retention rates. There are various models available and NHBS offers a comprehensive range – we’ve put together this guide to Robinson Moth Traps to help you choose the right model. We have also included our top tips to improve the efficiency of your Robinson Trap in use.

Robinson Moth Traps are the preferred choice amongst many serious entomologists because they offer the highest attraction and retention rates.  There are various models available and NHBS offers a comprehensive range – we’ve put together this guide to Robinson Moth Traps to help you choose the right model. We have also included our top tips to improve the efficiency of your Robinson Trap in use.

Similarities

NHBS sells a variety of Robinson moth trap types, varying in both price and specifications.  However, before we get into the differences, let’s consider their similarities.  All our Robinson traps are;

  • Supplied fully wired so you can start using them straight away
  • Fitted with an IP56 waterproof control box housing the appropriate chokes and capacitors
  • Supplied with a bulb (either mercury vapour (MV) or actinic depending on the trap chosen)
  • Supplied with 240V electrics (including 3-pin plug) or 12V battery powered electrics
  • Fitted with a rain guard for the mercury vapour bulb (MV Robinsons only)
  • Fitted with flight interception baffles
  • Complete with drainage hole in centre of base (holes are either too small to allow moths to escape or fitted with gauze)

Differences

Before we analyse each trap individually, remember that any one of these traps will attract moths in large numbers.  Robinson moth traps fitted with mercury vapour bulbs are the most successful traps for attracting and retaining moths.  On a very good night you can expect 500 – 1000 moths.  So, what are the types of Robinson we offer?

NHBS Robinson moth trap

NHBS Robinson moth trap:  we’ve specially designed this trap to make it as cheap as possible for those on a budget or those new to mothing.  Robinson moth traps aren’t cheap and we’ve done all we can to reduce the price.  That said, the electrics are still the same as the other Robinson moth traps and it will still attract large numbers of moths.

Standard Robinson moth trapStandard Robinson moth trap:  this long-term favourite is our most popular design and combines a superb design with affordability.  It is larger and more robust than the NHBS Robinson but lacks one or two features of the Heavy Duty Robinson.  This trap is an excellent choice for both professionals and enthusiasts.

Heavy Duty Robinson moth trapHeavy Duty Robinson moth trap:  this trap is robust and durable, making it ideal for prolonged use.  It combines many great features of a Robinson trap to provide a durable design.

60W Actinic Robinson Moth Trap

60W Actinic Robinson moth trap: this Robinson moth trap has actinic electrics rather than mercury vapour electrics.  It also has the same components and dimensions as the Standard Robinson moth trap.

Midi Robinson moth trap

Midi Robinson moth trap: the Midi Robinson moth trap is the latest edition to the NHBS range of Robinson moth traps.  It has the smallest dimensions of any Robinson moth trap and is available in either a Mercury Vapour or Actinic version.

Actinic vs Mercury Vapour

When choosing between mercury vapour and actinic electrics, there are several general rules to consider.  Mercury vapour bulbs will attract the largest amount of moths.  However, they are also quite bright.  If using the trap in a small back garden, you may want to opt for actinic electrics.  These produce less light and so are less likely to annoy the neighbours.  Mercury vapour bulbs run hot and so need to be protected from the rain to avoid shattering.  All our mercury vapour Robinson traps come with a rain guard as standard.  Actinic bulbs do not run hot and so do not need protecting from the rain. 

If you decide on actinic electrics, then you can choose between the 60W Actinic Robinson and the Actinic Midi Robinson.  The 60W Actinic Robinson is essentially the same trap as our Standard MV Robinson moth trap, but has 2 x 30W actinic bulbs that run off a mains supply or generator.  The Actinic Midi Robinson is smaller than the 60W Actinic Robinson.  The Midi has 1 x 15W actinic bulb that is designed to run off a 12V battery.  Thus it is much more portable as it does not have to be plugged into mains electrics, but won’t attract as many moths as it’s not as powerful.

If It’s Mercury Vapour You Want…!

If you decide on a Mercury Vapour Robinson moth trap, then NHBS has a range of options to cater for various situations and budgets.

Small is Beautiful

For those wanting the cheapest mercury vapour Robinson trap available, the MV Midi Robinson is the trap for you.  But just because it is the cheapest, it doesn’t mean the quality of the trap has been compromised.  Essentially it is the same trap as our best seller, the Standard Robinson moth trap, but with a few alterations to reduce the price.  Firstly, it’s smaller with a base diameter of 45cm compared to the 60cm base of the Standard Robinson trap.  This makes it more portable but means there’s less space for moths – a potential consideration if trapping on the busiest of nights.  The Midi Robinson has an 80W MV bulb, as opposed to the other MV Robinson traps that all run 125W MV bulbs.  This means the Midi is less powerful and so may attract fewer moths.  However, the build quality and components used are identical to those used on the Standard Robinson moth trap, so the Midi will still provide a durable and effective method of trapping moths.

125W MV Robinson Moth Traps – One of Three to Choose!

If you’ve decided against an actinic Robinson, and consider the Midi Robinson to be too small, or just simply want the most powerful Robinson trap available, then it’s a 125W MV Robinson you’ll be wanting!  There are three 125W MV Robinson traps to choose between; NHBS MV RobinsonStandard MV Robinson, and the Heavy Duty Robinson.  

When choosing between these three types of trap, you may want to consider the following;

Trap Electrics

125W MV moth trap electricsAll three trap designs fundamentally have the same 240V electrics with all the necessary chokes, capacitors, etc included.  As they all run a 125W mercury vapour bulb, there won’t be any noticeable differences in light intensity or attraction rates of moths.  Where they do differ is in the cable lengths.  The NHBS Robinson has a short input cable (that runs from the mains plug to the waterproof control box) of approximately 1.5 metres.  The Standard Robinson has approximately 5 metres of input cable, whilst the Heavy Duty Robinson has 15 metres of input cable.  So, you’ll probably need an extension cable for use with the NHBS Robinson.  The output cable (that runs from the control box to the bulb) is short for all three designs (1 – 2 metres).

Base

The bases of all three traps are made of black plastic and have drainage holes.  The NHBS Robinson has a smaller diameter base (approx. 50 cm) compared to the other two designs (approx. 60 cm).  Therefore, the NHBS Robinson has a smaller area for moth retention.  The base of the Heavy Duty Robinson is particularly durable and has a drainage hole fitted with gauze.  The Standard Robinson also has a drainage hole with gauze covering, whilst the NHBS Robinson has small holes drilled into the base to provide drainage.  All of the bases can be easily repaired in the event of minor cracks and breakages.

Collar

The collar of the NHBS Robinson is made of 3 mm black plastic and cannot be removed from the base.  Therefore, you won’t be able to see into the trap whilst it’s on, but the thick plastic will last for many years.  The collar of the Standard Robinson is made of 3 mm thick clear plastic and can be removed from the base.  You’ll be able to see inside whilst the trap is on.  The collar of the Heavy Duty Robinson is also made of 3 mm thick clear plastic and is removable from the base.  As you can remove the collars on the Standard and Heavy Duty Robinson, you can stack the bases into each other (for bases of the same model) for storage.  The collar of the NHBS Robinson is not removable so traps cannot be stacked inside each other.  The collars on all three traps are made of UV stable plastic and will be more resistant to brittleness; a common complaint for less robust collar designs.

Cone and Rain Guard

Spare cone for Standard Robinson moth trapAll three trap designs have a white cone and rain guard.  The NHBS and Heavy Duty Robinson traps have similar designs of cone with three flight interception baffles and a sturdy rain guard design which screws tight for rigidity.  The Standard Robinson has four flight interception baffles that are slightly more prominent in profile.  The rain guard, whilst having four supports, does not screw down for security.  Therefore, in high winds it may be prone to being blown over; although if high winds are predicted it’s unlikely you’ll be using the trap anyway!

If you’ve got any other questions regarding the three trap types then please contact customer services.

Hints and Tips

Regardless of the Robinson design, there are several ways to improve the efficiency of your Robinson moth trap.

  1. The majority of adult moths are nectar feeders, so site your trap in areas full of native plants.  Make your garden into a wildlife haven and you’ll hopefully see a big increase in moth numbers.  You may have to accept increased damage to your plants as you should avoid the use of pesticides.
  2. Improve the attractiveness of your garden by using plants that release their strongest scent during the evening, such as nicotinia and night-scented stock or honeysuckle.
  3. Cold, clear nights (especially following a period of milder weather) will reduce the numbers of moths available for trapping.  Cloudy, warm nights are best, especially as it tends to be darker on cloudy nights and so less light pollution will be competing with the trap light.
  4. Avoid trapping on bright nights with a full moon or near other sources of light, e.g. street lamps.
  5. Avoid windy or wet nights as moths are less inclined to fly and to avoid damage to the trap.
  6. If air masses are moving up from the South, southern coastal areas of the UK may see increased numbers of migrants being blown over from the continent.
  7. Peak mothing months are July and August.  However, moths may be seen in substantial numbers at other times of the year, especially in rural areas.

Remember to think about the moths too!  Avoid trapping on consecutive nights in small gardens as you may be trapping the same moths, thus preventing them from feeding and mating.  You can reduce the chance of re-trapping the same moths by releasing moths at least 50 metres from the trap site.  Ideally release the moths into dense vegetation so that they have a daytime refuge from predators.  If leaving the trap overnight, try and check it early in the morning.  Occasionally you may find wasps and hornets in the trap.  Wasps may kill moths and hornets will eat them, but both wasps and hornets are docile in the morning so can be removed with minimal effort.  Avoid trapping near known hornets nests.  If you can’t inspect your trap until later in the day, ensure it is in a shady area and place a damp cloth or sponge in the bottom of the trap to reduce the chances of dehydration.

Trap Components

We also provide trap electrics, bulbs and individual trap component separately.  Not all components are listed on the website, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for then get in touch with customer services.  Similarly, if you have any other questions then please get in touch.

Insects of Britain – Now Back in Stock at NHBS

Insects of Britain and Western EuropeThe bestselling Insects of Britain and Western Europe by Michael Chinery has just been reprinted and is now back in stock at NHBS! Order your copy today.

Over 2000 of the most commonly observed and most distinctive insect species of Britain and western Europe, from all orders and most families, are illustrated in this essential pocket guide. The text summarises key identification points, and introductory sections for each group covered give useful guidelines on the characteristics of the orders, families and genera covered. This is the most comprehensive guide available on the insects of this region and will be of great use to all naturalists with an interest in insect life.

Order Insects of Britain and Western Europe today

Browse other Arthropods & Insects titles

New! British Insect and Butterfly Field Guides

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Hot off the press from Collins are two great identification guides – the new edition of the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects, and the immensely popular third edition of the Collins Butterfly Guidenow available in paperback!

The new edition of the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects is a photographic field guide to all the common and some unusual species of insects across Britain that the keen amateur naturalist is likely to spot. Over 1,500 species are illustrated with detailed photographs chosen for their help in identification. Featured insect groups include: butterflies and moths, mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, crickets, earwigs, lacewings, bugs, bees, wasps, ants, beetles and larvae, all with keys to ensure accurate identification.

Order your copy of British Insects today!

The immensely popular third edition of the Collins Butterfly Guide is now available in paperback.  This comprehensive guide to the butterflies of Britain, Europe and North Africa describes and illustrates all 440 species, depicting both males and females and – where there is significant variation – subspecies.  Distribution maps accompany every widespread species, and the text covers all taxonomic nomenclature, distributions, flight periods, variations, habitats, behaviour, life cycles and conservation.

Collins Butterfly Guide is on special offer until 30 June 2009 order your copy today!

Check out our new range of homes for bugs and bees in your garden, including the Bee Hut, the Bumblebee Box and the Bug Mansion.

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New Centipede Keys and Other Insect Titles at NHBS

Key to the Identification of British Centipedes is now in stock – the first all-new identification guide to the centipedes of the United Kingdom in the last 40 years. Ideal for both the amateur and professional entomologist. For more centipede information, the new Synopsis of the British Fauna Volume 58: Centipedes provides further in-depth notes on Chilopoda taxonomy.

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Browse other new and upcoming insect titles from NHBS

Browse Backlist Bargains – Invertebrates (Our annual sale must end 31 March 2009.)

Browse the full catalogue of Arthropods and Insects

Browse our full range of Wildlife Equipment including moth traps, nets, beating trays, insect pots and all the other field essentials.

Bzzz… The Superorganism and Other Bee and Ant Colony Titles from NHBS

Some great new books about bee and ant societies have just swarmed into NHBS, including The Superorganism – Holldobler and Wilson’s in-depth analysis of insect societies, a follow-up to their acclaimed 1990 publication The Ants.

Don’t miss Six-Legged Soldiers, the compelling story of how insects have been used as weapons of war from prehistoric times right up to the Second World War and the near future.

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Browse more new bee and ant colony titles

Check out our new range of homes for bugs and bees in your garden, including the Bee Hut, the Bumblebee Box and the Bug Mansion.

Browse Backlist Bargains – Invertebrates (Our annual sale ends 31 March 2009.)

Browse the full catalogue of Arthropods and Insects

Bestselling Wildlife Equipment at the Birdfair

The equipment bestsellers at this year’s Birdfair were small items for entomology:

Bug Box Magnifying Pot – great for freshwater sampling, examining insects and other invertebrates.
Bug Box Magnifying Jar

Entomological Collecting Pots – for holding small invertebrates for examination, they also fit our Pooter so you can swap pots as you collect things. Sold as singles, or in packs of 5.

Entomological Collecting Pots

Pooter – for collecting small arthropods for identification and examination. An entomology essential!
Pooter