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Beetles, flies, bugs, bees, wasps and ants!

Here’s a bit about myself and how my passion for insects developed. My interest was sparked more than 60 years ago at primary school. Our house in Uckfield backed on to a flowery meadow occasionally cut by hand for hay. I was aged about 10 when I noticed the variety of insects present, including many different butterflies and, with the aid of an Observer’s book, I soon learnt to recognise them.  During my first year at secondary school, I met a boy in my class with similar interests. His father worked in the office at a Decca Navigation station, located in the centre of a forest about 5 miles away, and we had permission to wander freely in the heath and woodland surrounding the radio mast. The area turned out to be an amazingly rich habitat for all kinds of insects, although at the time we were not aware that the forest hosted the only known British colony of the Lewes Wave moth. Unfortunately, it became extinct after the site was destroyed around 1960, so this was a lost opportunity to see something really special.

As is often the case, on leaving school my interests changed, but by the late 1960s I’d rekindled my interest in entomology and began recording butterflies and moths more seriously. Quite by chance, I met another young Sussex entomologist and we compiled lists of moths found in our local area. Then, from about 1971, we turned our attention to recording beetles in Sussex and this marked the beginning of my lifelong interest.

Carabus monilis

Of course, there were no computers, so everything had to be written by hand and I began to compile species lists in a series of hardback notebooks. Learning to recognise all 4,000 odd species of British beetles involved a lot of hard work and dedication but recording them on paper added another layer of complication. Nevertheless a small group of us set out with the objective of compiling an up-to-date inventory of beetles living in the county.

Malachius bipustulatus
Ampedus cardinalis

Problems soon started to emerge and due to the sheer size of the task a comprehensive list was never completed. However, writing detailed records in my notebooks continued apace. Gradually, various national recording schemes were launched, but they did little to improve my ability to contribute records.  Yes, I had records, thousands of them, but they were merely lists of species written in diary format.  Thankfully, the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre stepped in. They were aware that I’d amassed records dating back more than 45 years so devised a plan whereby volunteers using SxBRC computers could enter my records straight into the Recorder 6 database, one notebook at a time. With limited resources, this was not a quick process, but gradually the plan began to bear fruit and, 10 years later, I’m pleased to announce that the project has been successful and 65,000 Sussex beetle records have recently been uploaded to the NBN Atlas.

Agapanthia villosoviridescens
Pseudovadonia livida

This is not the end of the story, because I have still more handwritten notebooks containing records of other groups of insects, including flies, bugs, bees, wasps and ants. However, the project has taught me that anything can be achieved with determination and it has inspired me to carry on until all my records are digitised.

Peter Hodge and Professor Michael Hassell, Chairman of the NBN Trust. Photo: Mark Hawkins

I am delighted to be the 2017 recipient of the Gilbert White Award for recording terrestrial and freshwater wildlife in recognition of my work. I would especially like to thank Páramo for generously sponsoring this award by donating a wonderful prize. Also, without help from Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, the National Biodiversity Network Trust and numerous volunteers who painstakingly interpreted the handwritten Latin names in my notebooks, this amazing project would not have been possible. I’m therefore sincerely grateful and thank everyone for their invaluable help.

For further information on studying and recording British beetles please visit

Peter Hodge
Winner of the NBN Gilbert White Adult Award for terrestrial and freshwater wildlife recording.
All photos of beetles were taken and supplied by Peter Hodge.

2 thoughts on “Beetles, flies, bugs, bees, wasps and ants!

  1. Very interesting but it would have been good to see some credits for the pictures

    1. All photos were taken and supplied by Peter Hodge – he has provided the names and is happy for them to be used elsewhere if people wish to use them.

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