Ramsey Island hosted its first ever ‘Bug Bioblitz’ days this week and thankfully we had some fabulous June weather to help make the events a big success. St Davids based entomologist, Sarah Beynon, joined island staff and volunteers to show 100 children, parents and teachers some of the special insects which make Ramsey their home.
The two day event was organised to coincide with the Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week which is celebrating all that is great about British insects. Lots of families joined us on Sunday and two school groups, one from Pembroke Dock and one from Spittal crossed to the island on Monday.
Sarah took three groups on a bug walk, spotting ants, butterflies, moths and caterpillars along the way. Highlight of the walk were the dung beetles caught overnight in some carefully positioned ‘drop traps’ baited with fresh cow dung! We learnt about dung beetle ecology and how they prevent the world from disappearing under animal droppings, recycling nutrients back into the soil and providing food for hungry birds like chough and little owl in the process.
Back at the farmhouse we had some other large beetles, but these were just visiting. Sarah’s pet Giant Madagascan Cockroaches were a great hit with the children who were able to hold these impressive animals; in fact they are some of the world’s largest cockroaches. When disturbed they can ‘hiss’ by forcing gas through their spiracles. They are currently sitting on my desk eating bananas and oranges waiting for Sarah to come back and collect them, I have to admit that I have become quite fond of them already!
Sarah’s research has shown that Ramsey is a superb habitat for dung beetles. It is the different grazing animals that make it so special, as the dung of sheep, deer, ponies and rabbits provide very varied habitats that are attractive to different species of dung beetle. One of the beetles discovered on the island; the Spring Dumbledore, Geotrupes vernalis, is Nationally Scarce but thrives in Ramsey’s southern heathland.National Insect Week happens every two years and is supported by more than 50 national partner organisations, including the RSPB, concerned about natural history and biodiversity. Island wardens would like to thank Sarah for all her hard-work and for passing on her expert knowledge, Field Teachers Tara and Martha, who came to help from our Newport Wetlands reserve and to all the fantastic children for their endless enthusiasm. We hope to meet you all again soon.