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.