My earliest memory of being interested in insects is when I was about 3 years old and I used to get a bucket and go on a bug hunt in the garden. I’d look under wood or stones and collect anything I could find and put it in the bucket! When I was about 8 years old I remember being on the beach at Greatstone in Kent and started catching white butterflies that were flying in across the sea from France with my fishing net. After that I was hooked for life. In 1976 after setting up home with my partner, (who also luckily loved bugs), I bought my first moth trap, and this opened my eyes to the amazing variety of moths and other night-flying creatures.
In 1989 We opened Romney Marsh Butterflies at Hamstreet in Kent,which was a Tropical Butterfly House. This consisted of a large heated greenhouse where the public could wander and admire the myriads of tropical butterflies flying freely around the waterfall, ponds and streams, surrounded by tropical plants. This is when I first came into contact with giant Stick Insects, Scorpions, Spiders and Millipedes.
I have been a volunteer for the White Cliff Countryside Partnership for nearly 20 years doing conservation work in the local area and have noticed that as I’m getting older there are fewer younger people are coming up through the ranks to replace us oldies. I’ve also helped at and run Greengang events (W.C.C.P) for children, which children love, but as they have to be accompanied by their parents – who are not always so enthusiastic, I thought I would tackle it from the other way around by going into schools and getting the children hooked first. They can then drag their parents along!. I’ve noticed that in every class there is usually at least one child who is mad on nature, and with a little help, could well replace us oldies when we are gone, so my plan might work!
I now have a spare room bulging with tanks and cages full of all manner of bugs. They take a lot of time to feed and look after, but it’s worth it when you see the children’s faces light up – either through sheer terror or fascination! I have also managed to give away lots of caterpillars of different sorts to interested families to rear at home or school.
Many people fear bugs (some with good reason!) but with my Bug Roadshow I am hoping to show people how important and amazing they really are.
This is the Fiery Clearwing Moth which is found only between Folkestone and Dover and a few other places in North Kent. This is a species that I have been studying for the last 17 years, firstly for English Nature, then Natural England and now for Butterfly Conservation. It is a day-flying species of moth and is on the Northern limit of it’s European range, so is struggling to survive on our shores in the last few years especially, as it likes really hot sunny weather!
I have now run a few after-school nature clubs at River Primary School in Dover which the children seem to love. I’ve also run two in Lydden Primary School.
In 2014 I was asked by the French government to survey eight sites that they manage for the wildlife as they didn’t have any moth records, and how can you manage a site if you don’t know what lives there? That was hard work but great fun. I will be going back again in 2015 to survey more sites.
In October 2017 I supplied Atlas Moths and cocoons to a film company near Bristol for use in a new wildlife series they are filming for Sky TV.