Help count bugs and learn how things have changed

thisisoxfordshire: Members of the Shotover Wildlife group, with Ivan Wright on the right Buy this photo » Members of the Shotover Wildlife group, with Ivan Wright on the right

BUG hunters are calling on volunteers to help count the insects in Oxford’s Shotover Park.

Community group Shotover Wildlife has been given £6,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a minibeast survey.

Thanks to unique records kept by Victorian entomologists in Oxford, the group has an opportunity to see how species have changed over more than 100 years.

Project leader Ivan Wright wants volunteers to sweep nets, fill traps and help find insects in all places.

“It will be really great fun,” said Mr Wright, who lives in Horspath, Oxford.

“You don’t need speciaist skills, just people willing to come out and help.”

If the bug hunt finds species which did not previously live this far north it could help illustrate climate change in Oxford.

Mr Wright added: “Shotover is very fortunate to have had so many eminent naturalists work here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The unusual geology of the hill and the diversity of habitats make it a very interesting place.

“Following in the footsteps of the early recorders is an important record of how things have changed over time.”

The group has used the £6,000 to buy new sweep nets and bug hunting equipment, but most of the money will be spent on recruiting specialist consultants who can identify tiny and unusual bugs.

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Oxford Natural History Museum’s Entomology department will play a key role in the project, as many old diaries and field notebooks are preserved there.

The 300-acre Shotover Park is jointly owned by Oxford City Council and Oxford University.

Shotover Wildlife has been recording wildlife in the park and at Brasenose Wood for 14 years.

The Heritage Lottery’s Sharing Heritage is a new funding programme to help people across the UK explore, conserve and share all aspects of the history and character of their local area.

Mr Wright added: “Insect identification is always very satisfying, but at an important site like Shotover we quite often find something rare that hasn’t been seen there for more than 100 years; it’s thrilling.

“We recently found a beetle 96 years to the day since its only other record on the Hill.”

Results from the Shotover Natural Heritage project will be shared through leaflets, talks and publications.

Throughout the winter, volunteers will also be needed for workshops at village halls – going through bags of bugs in alcohol and separating the bees from the beetles and the butterflies from the moths.

To find out more or to get involved, email irwright@ shotover-wildlife.org.uk

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