National Insect Week 2008

So, how was National Insect Week for you? Here in York, theBigBuzz National Insect Week has gone on for a fortnight! (If you missed any of these events, then fear not! You can either listen to my poems on my Buzzing! CD, which is a recommended resource on the National Insect Week website, and/or you can catch a live show later in the year.)

So, my National Insect Week 2008 began early, on Friday 20 June, when I performed my Buzzing! show (in celebration of garden minibeasts) to more senior York residents at a local hospital. (Here I am chatting with members of the audience after the show.)

Chatting with the audience after my National Insect Week hospital performance

Then, the next morning I was entertaining somewhat younger York citizens at Copmanthorpe Primary School Environment Fair.

At this fair I acquired a new roadie: 2-year-old Roadie Raphael …

… who also decided to take part in the show itself!

Copmanthorpe Primary School Buzzing! performance, National Insect Week 08

“That was great!”
“What a wonderful show!”

On the evening of Tuesday 24 June, I went to a fascinating lecture on insect bio-acoustics (the sounds insects make), given by Dr Dave Chesmore of the Electronics Department of the University of York. You can find out more about Dr Chesmore’s fascinating research here. It was at this talk that I had the pleasure of meeting the former President of the Royal Entomological Society, and the force behind National Insect Week, Professor Chris Haines.

The next morning saw Dr Dave Chesmore up bright and early to be interviewed by Radio York about our joint National Insect Week event planned for that night: a Buzzing! moth night in York Cemetery.

At that event, I began by performing a special version of Buzzing! in the cemetery chapel. (Ably assisted by the unflappable Adrian Lovett, at the computer in the photo below – taken by Paul Rhodes.)

The show featured lots of moth poems and photos – including a world premiere!

“A really super show”

Then, once it was well and truly dark, we all went outside where Dr Dave Chesmore had set up his moth trapping equipment.

Enthralled, we were out until after midnight, and Dave caught and identified a total of 23 species. (Photo below taken by Paul Rhodes)

“A thoroughly enjoyable evening”

This joint event went so well that we are doing a similar Buzzing! Moth Night at Kew at Castle Howard on 20 September. (more details)


On Friday 27 June I was an invited speaker at ‘Creative York Revealed’, an event held at York St John University, organised by Creative York and hosted by C4C. So I was able to spread the National Insect Week word there too, and regale the audience with tales of my Berberis Sawfly larvae, which had hatched two days before. (This is the third year in a row that I’ve sighted them in our garden. This year I even saw – and videoed – them laying their eggs. Of which, more anon.)

Saturday 28 June was a Buzzing! plus Photography Workshop and Minibeast Hunt at York Environment Centre (St Nicholas Fields).

“Them voices what you did was right good!”
“It was delightful!”

We were blessed with good weather which meant that we could spend as long as we wanted outdoors after my show looking for minibeasts and taking photos of them. The younger children present were very enthusiastic bug hunters. They had particularly beady eyes and found young pond skaters in the pond …

… and all sorts of other tiny creatures, some hidden away in hard-to-reach places.


The older members of the audience spent their time photographing insects.  Here is Jacob honing his macro photography skills (photo taken by his mum Lesley):

And here is a beautiful photo of a hoverfly that Jacob’s Mum, “I think you may have got me hooked!” Lesley, took:

My last National Insect Week event of the fortnight came on Thursday 3 July, when I put on 3 Buzzing! workshops as part of Scarcroft Primary School‘s Science Day, organised by NYBEP. I set off bright and early with all my National Insect Week stickers, pencils etc. for the pupils …

and also with two specimen jars of my world-first insect discovery, Berberis Sawfly larvae, collected that very morning from my garden.

Collecting Berberis Sawfly Larvae, 3 July 2008
Collecting Berberis Sawfly Larvae, 3 July 2008
Berberis sawfly larvae, from theBigBuzz garden in York, 3 July 2008

I was very impressed by how much the children already knew about scientific names etc., and by how much they learnt during each of my Buzzing! sessions. At the end, I gave each pupil a National Insect Week pencil, which I hope they will use to note their sightings of 2-spot ladybirds and Painted Lady butterflies, and to write up their ‘Close Encounter’ with an insect, and draw their invented insect. Details of all these surveys and competitions – which I told the children about in my workshops – are on the National Insect Week website.

“You could have heard a pin drop!” Year 5/6 Teacher
“The session was very informative, fun, lively and kept the children’s interest throughout. I’m sure they have learnt alot.” Year 5/6 Teacher

My National Insect Week ended on a real high. As I was leaving  Scarcroft School, a 10-year-old boy came up to me, completely unbidden, and said:

“You’re well good at poems, you are!”

What a great way to end a great 2 weeks!

I am indebted to the Royal Entomological Society’s Lesley Goodman Award for enabling me to put on these events. We had lots of great feedback from the shows and workshops, and I hope many of the residents of York will be taking part in National Insect Week surveys and competitions as a result.

And if you want to host a Buzzing! performance and/or workshop where you are, email me! I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. A throughly enjoyable performance at the York Cemetery Moth Night.. Annaliese’s performance was fantastic. The show was captivating and energetic….I shall never look at those poor bugs the same again. I’ve been enjoying my CD and your great characters – Thank You. A performance to recommend.

  2. We like the picters. Your poems are fab. Thank for coming. If you were to come again will you right a peom about our school, st oswalds.

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