Up on the roof with the bees!
Last week I got the chance to go up on the roof of National Museum Cardiff to see the two Natural Sciences beehives. Since the bees arrived last year, Ben Evans and his team of trained staff from across the Cathays Park site have been responsible for the weekly maintenance of the hives. On this occasion Ben was able to sign me in as a visitor and we collected the box of beekeeping equipment and made our way up and out onto the roof. Next we put on our beekeeping gear; a half suit with an integral hat and face net and some thick gauntlet gloves. Ben lit up the smoker and waved it near the entrance of the hives to calm the bees. He then took the top off the hive and carefully pulled out the individual layers so that we could have a clear look inside. Each layer was covered in hundreds of bees and underneath we could see the beautiful hexagonal formations where the bees store their food and larvae. We also checked through each layer to locate the queen. She is marked with a green spot on her back so she can be clearly identified. The two hives are very different, in one the bees are quite subdued so Ben is feeding them with a sugary syrup to help them along. In the other hive the bees seem very active and are starting to produce honey. I actually got to taste the honey and it was gorgeous! Ben plans to produce a beekeepers diary, so keep an eye out for further updates about the bees on our blog pages and our Twitter Feeds (@NatHistConseve or @CardiffCurator). Let’s hope they produce more honey so we can eventually sell it in the museum shop!
Murder and Mystery at the Museum
The first ever Murder Mystery evening at National Museum Cardiff took place on 19th May 2015 and was linked to the ‘Museums at Night’ festival, which ran from 13-16th May and will run again 30th-31st October. The evening was organised by staff from the Department of Natural Sciences and was attended by over 90 adults.
Visitors were invited to attend a grand gala evening to witness the unveiling of the largest and most beautiful diamond in the world, being shown in Wales for the first time. However, the evening began with a missing diamond, a dead body and six potential suspects. The Museum was now in lock down for three hours with the killer trapped inside! After the Crime Scene Investigators had collected evidence from the murder scene and suspects, scientific tests were set-up throughout the Natural History galleries and visitors were requested to help with testing the evidence. They also had the opportunity to interrogate the six suspects and to try and determine ‘Whodunnit?’ before the killer struck again! Fortunately the event ended in the successful capture of the murderer and the diamond returned, with all visitors fortunately unharmed.
This was a fantastic opportunity for visitors to explore the atmospheric galleries and main hall and see our galleries in a completely different atmosphere. We have received requests to run this event and other mysteries in the future, so check out the museum's What's on pages to see future events.
Gwobrau Gwyddonwyr Gwych 2015
Bydd Amgueddfa Cymru yn dyfarnu Tystysgrifau Gwyddonwyr Gwych i cant o ysgolion ar draws y DU eleni, i gydnabod eu cyfraniad i Ymchwiliad Bylbiau’r Gwanwyn – Newid Hinsawdd.
Llongyfarchiadau anferth i bob un o’r ysgolion!
Diolch i bob un o’r 5,539 disgybl a helpodd eleni! Diolch am weithio mor galed yn plannu, arsylwi, mesur a chofnodi – rydych chi i gyd yn Wyddonwyr Gwych! Bydd pob un yn derbyn tystysgrif a phensel Gwyddonydd Gwych, ac fe fyddan nhw’n cyrraedd eich ysgol tua canol mis Mai.
Diolch yn fawr i Ymddiriedolaeth Edina am eu nawdd ac am helpu i wireddu’r holl broject!
Diolch i’r tri enillydd wnaeth anfon y nifer fwyaf o ddata tywydd. Bydd pob un yn derbyn trip ysgol llawn hwyl i atyniad natur.
St. Brigid's School - Wales
The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School - England
Winton Primary School - Scotland
Betws Primary School
Carnforth North Road Primary School
Corsehill Primary School
St. Laurence Primary School
St. Michael's Primary School
St. Paul's Primary School
Wormit Primary School
Balcurvie Primary School
Coleg Meirion Dwyfor
Eastfield Primary School
Fairlie Primary School
Gibshill Children's Centre
Howwood Primary School
Keir Hardie Memorial Primary School
Kilmory Primary School
SS Philip and James CE Primary School
St. Ignatius Primary School
St. Peter's CE Primary School
Wildmill Youth Club
Ysgol Bro Eirwg
Bickerstaffe CE Primary School
Binnie Street Children's Centre
Brodick Primary School
Carstairs Primary School
Coppull Parish Primary School
Dallas Road Primary School
Euxton Church of England Primary School
Garstang St. Thomas' CE Primary School
Guardbridge Primary School
Henllys CIW Primary
Kirkton Primary School
Llanharan Primary School
Morningside Primary School
Newport Primary School
Orchard Meadow Primary School
Pittenweem Primary School
Rhws Primary School
Rivington Foundation Primary School
Sacred Heart Primary and Nurseries
Skelmorlie Primary School
Stanford-in-the-Vale CE Primary School
St Athan Primary
St Mellons Church in Wales Primary School
Trellech Primary School
Woodlands Primary School
Ynysddu Primary School
Ysgol Bryn Garth
Ysgol Syr John Rhys
Ysgolion i dderbyn tystysgrifau:
Abbey Primary School
Albert Primary School
Arkholme CE Primary School
Baird Memorial Primary School
Balshaw Lane Community Primary School
Chapelgreen Primary School
Christ Church CP School
Chryston Primary School
Colinsburgh Primary School
Darran Park Primary
Fintry Primary School
Glencoats Primary School
Kilmacolm Primary School
Kings Oak Primary School
Llanishen Fach C.P School
Mossend Primary School
Our Lady of Peace Primary School
Preston Grange Primary School
Saint Anthony's Primary School
Silverdale St. John's CE School
St. Nicholas CE Primary School
St. Philip Evans RC Primary School
Swiss Valley CP School
Thorn Primary School
Tongwynlais Primary School
Torbain Nursery School
Townhill Primary School
Ysgol Bryn Coch
Ysgol Glan Conwy
Ysgol Iau Hen Golwyn
Ysgol Nant Y Coed
Ysgol Rhys Prichard
Ysgol Tal y Bont
Ysgol Y Plas
Glyncollen Primary School
Rougemont Junior School
Da iawn, rydych chi wedi gwneud gwaith ANHYGOEL.
Adrian in the Amazon - final part
Our expedition has now drawn to a successful close. Our collections of several thousand specimens have (mostly) been successfully exported from Ecuador and initial analysis of them has started. Entomological expeditions to remote areas are great fun of course. However the less glamorous but harder work comes later, involving months or years of detailed study during which new species are described, evolutionary trees constructed, and ecological or biogeographic conclusions etc. are developed.
In the field there may be great excitement about finding a particular insect but to a scientist, the level of excitement can only grow as the real significance of the finding is revealed subsequently through painstaking study and reference to our already extensive collections. Already we have glimpses of results that might tell us more about how the insect fauna of the upper Amazon Basin came about. For example the unexpected presence of Cladodromia (a classic ‘Gondwanan’ genus) suggests there has been immigration from Patagonia whereas the high diversity of Neoplasta (which is essentially North American) hints at a south-bound migration along the Andes. On the other hand, an almost complete absence of Hemerodromia puzzles us as it is widespread in the lower Amazon so why didn’t we find it higher up? We suspect that the answer may be that it has only recently arrived in South America and is still spreading to Ecuador. Then again the unseasonal rains (due to a strong El Niño this year) may be a factor. Investigations continue.
In the field, our successes were often hard-won; difficult slogging through trying terrain, inclement weather, frustrating officialdom and many other factors sometimes worked against us it seemed, and intermittent access to the internet made writing these blogs challenging at times. We have been very fortunate in that our expedition was entirely and well-funded by the Brazilian Government as a part of their noble and ambitious efforts to understand the biodiversity of the Amazon. Our own exertions will plug one significant hole in knowledge and contribute to greater appreciation of Amazon biodiversity.
To read all of Adrian's entries, go to our Natural History Blog
Adrian in the Amazon - part 9
Back to civilization again - the regional capital of Loja, a small town nestled under forested Andean slopes and home to the regional Ministry of Environment where we must go once again, to obtain permission to move the samples we have collected back to Quito.
Unlike our previous brush with officialdom in Tena (our samples from there still have not been released!... but we have some local support to ensure that they eventually will be), the officials in Loja were helpful, polite and efficient! We had allowed 2 days to process the permissions in Loja, but in the event, we received our permits within 30 minutes, leaving us the best part of 2 days to explore the town and sample the local culture and cuisine.
Meanwhile, here are some more photos from our time in the field.
To read more about Adrian's travels, go to our Natural History blog page
Adrian in the Amazon - part 8
A week has passed during which the rains slowly abated (at least for part of each day). Dryer vegetation means that our nets (and ourselves) don’t rapidly become water-sodden and we can catch insects more easily and effectively. Whenever the weather has allowed, we have been climbing through the forest searching for flies and enjoying a good measure of success in our quest.
Many of the species we have been catching belong in genera with which we have little familiarity; being rare and little-known, even to specialists such as ourselves. Finds such as these make all the hard slogging up precipitous slopes, cutting through dense vegetation, deep sucking mud and scratches and bites from a myriad of thorny plants and man-eating insects worthwhile! I guess you have to be a shade unhinged to enjoy this sort of thing. . . or a field entomologist perhaps?
Our time at Estación Científica San Francisco is now drawing to a close and tonight we have been sorting and labelling our samples carefully to ensure they are ready for shipment back to our bases in Cardiff and Manaus. Proper field curation of collected specimens is a vital part of expeditions such as ours, ensuring that all data (where/when an insect was captured, what it’s habitat was and how it was behaving etc. etc.) is properly cross-referenced with the actual samples. Were the samples to become detached from their data they would be rendered useless, of mere cosmetic interest.
To read more about Adrian's travels, go to our Natural History blog page
Adrian in the Amazon - part 7
We have made it to the Estación Científica San Francisco in Podocarpus National Park, Loja Province. Well, we made it but one of our bags didn’t, apparently having been left behind in Quito. We are hopeful that it will arrive tomorrow in Loja and we can arrange for a taxi to bring it the hour or so’s drive to the Estación. Meanwhile we are getting to know our new home for the next week.
The Estación is perched on the side of a narrow ravine in dense forest through which flows the Rio San Fransisco. All our routes into the forest start with a spectacular crossing of the river using a wire cradle suspended from a rope running through pulleys at either end high over the water. Progress is made by pulling hand over hand on the opposing rope until the other side is reached. Once over, the ground is very steep and densely forested. Our intial forrays into the near reaches of this wilderness indicate a spectacularly diverse fly fauna. . . and that is what we are here for. We have set our Malaise traps but the incessant rain is making other fieldwork difficult so we will have to wait for better weather to get further afield and explore more.
You can read more about Adrian's travels on our blog page
Adrian in the Amazon - part 6
Having completed our work at Yanayacu we have moved further down the eastern slopes of the Andes to the town of Tena in Napo Province. Here at only 500m above sea level it is much hotter than in the mountains - a truly tropical climate. The town is placed on the last slight hills before the Andes sweep down and merge onto the flatlands of the Amazon Basin. West of here, the rivers are fast and furious having dropped 3000m or more in just 50km through the mountains whereas to the east they become sluggish and it will take another 3000km for them to drop the remaining 500m to the sea.
Our visit to Tena is necessary to complete administrative formalities and to obtain permits allowing us to move the specimens we have collected between different provinces within Ecuador. After three visits to the Ministry of Environment, numerous phone calls, support from a well-connected colleague at the newly established university in Tena and from colleagues in Quito we are still waiting for a positive outcome!
Josenir and I have to move on to our next study site in Loja Province and we have no chance or getting the permits through in time. Fortunately, Eduardo has to remain in the town to deliver a 3-day entomology course to the students at the university. The hope is that he can complete the formalities and bring our specimens with him when he moves back to Quito next week and we can take them from him when we pass through Quito on our way out of the country. Meanwhile Josy and I have a plane to catch….
Find out more about what Adrian has been up to by reading his past blogs.
Adrian in the Amazon - part 5
Our time at Yanayacu has drawn to a close. The final days fieldwork saw us collecting in the Malaise traps we had previously set and making several forays to a particularly good stream site where we had hoped to find more species of Hemerodromia. Hemerodromia is the focus of Josenir’s PhD work at INPA and we have been searching hard for specimens to help her studies.
Alas, many hours of wading up streambeds, sloshing through mud and slithering over mossy spring sources has yielded but a handful. These will be valuable for her studies but we can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the results on this aspect of our expedition. We have speculated long and hard as to why Hemerodromia has been so hard to find. Perhaps these aquatic insects have been washed out of their streams by the unusually strong rains we are experiencing? It seems that a particularly strong El Nino event has commenced bringing late rains throughout Ecuador.
During the evenings we have been running an ultraviolet light to attract nocturnal insects to the Biological Station. A couple of nights ago we were absolutely inundated by insects with vast numbers of hawk moths, tiger moths, giant Hercules beetles and enormous stoneflies (Plecoptera) known as Dobson Flies in the US, coming to the light. It’s odd but the best nights for attracting insects are not warm balmy ones but those with torrential rain and enveloping cloud. And such were the conditions on this particular occasion.
To read more about Adrian's expedition - read his past blog posts.
Adrian in the Amazon - part 4
We have now settled into a routine at the Yanayacu Biological Station. Our days are spent out in the forest collecting flies and in the evenings we examine the results of the days efforts, preserving the specimens and collating data about where and how we found them. Josenir and I are especially interested in a group of flies known as Hemerodromiinae and in our fieldwork efforts we mostly target streams, rivers and springs where we expect to find them.
The terrain in this part of the Andes is generally very steep and many of the stream banks have washed-out and slipped allowing a dense understorey of bamboo to grow. Because of this, simply getting into the streams can involve much machete work hacking through the vegetation and a slithering half-controlled descent of muddy slopes until we finally splash into the stream bed and can begin work. Our general procedure is to wade upstream using a net to sweep insects off surrounding vegetation, or selectively picking flies off wet rocks, wet moss etc. It is hard, dirty and wet work and we inevitably return soaked to the skin and mud-splattered but we have been rewarded by many interesting finds.
Yesterday we found perhaps 30-50 species (it’s not really possible to be more precise until we begin detailed examinations back in Cardiff and Manaus) and we think that around 90% of these will be completely new species that have yet to be described. I was particularly delighted to find no less than 5 new species of the genus Chelipoda. I have studied this genus intensively in the past and attempted to construct a ‘phylogenetic tree’ showing the systematic relationships between the living species and inferring the sequence of their evolution.
It is not yet clear if most South American species of Chelipoda evolved from ancestors that migrated south from North America in the distant past or if they have developed from so-called ‘Gondwanan’ species - ones which originated on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana before it broke apart and its fragments drifted apart to form modern day New Zealand, South Africa and Patagonia for example. Careful examination of the Ecuadorian species should reveal clues hidden in their anatomy as to which theory (if any) is correct.
- Pob cofnod