Imperial’s Silwood Park Campus opened its gates to the public to teach them a bit about science and the importance of our native creepy crawlies.
Bugs! Day, an annual Silwood event, routinely draws crowds from the surrounding community. In spite of the blistering 32 degree heat, this year’s event still attracted over 400 participants.
The primary goal of Bugs! Day is to help visitors, especially children, engage with our natural world. Insects make up a vital part of the ecosystem, providing food for the birds and mammals. They also pollinate flowers and crops, recycle the nutrients on our forest floors, and provide the humming soundtrack to a British summer.
Guests like friends Mimi (age 8) and Lola (age 7½) gained a greater appreciation for the insect world; Lola now “likes it when you can hold ladybirds” while Mimi prefers grasshoppers.
Children were encouraged to use butterfly nets to catch and examine local insect life on a Silwood Wildlife Safari and were shown the campus’s ‘Bug Hotel’.
Exhibitions at the event covered a range of topics, using games and crafts to help children and adults understand the importance of organisms from ‘microbeasts’ (bdelloid rotifers) to bees to bigger mammals, such as bats and foxes.
Bugs! Day attendees were offered the opportunity to try pond dipping, scooping nets through the pondweed and water lilies of Silwood’s pond in hopes of finding aquatic bugs.
“The kids love it!” said Rachelle Todd, turning to identify a newt larvae held close to her face by a young smiling naturalists-in-training. Todd, a Conservation Science (MSc) student at Silwood, said that the children were mostly finding beetles, snails, and the occasional dragonfly nymph.
More than just an educational experience, Bugs Day served as an avenue to connect Silwood Park with the greater Ascot community. “It’s great to see the campus and see what goes on here” said Jenny Smith of Sunninghill, adding that this was her family’s first visit to Silwood.
Local residents were exhibitors as well as participants: Imperial College welcomed the Upper Thames Branch of Butterfly Conservation, a group dedicated to educating the public about the importance of protecting our native butterflies. Wildlife in Ascot and Insect SOS, an insect conservation project launched in association with presenter (and Imperial alumnus) Dr George McGavin, were also present.
Happy little faces, painted to look like butterflies, were herded home by Mums and Dads at the end of the day, with promises that they would return next year as long as they didn’t get any pondweed in the mini-van.
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Thomas Angus [Photographer]
Communications and Public Affairs
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