The Legacy of Entomologist Harold Edward Hammond

A Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, Harold Edward Hammond, (1902 – 1963), was a keen Lepidopterist. Coupled with this affinity for butterflies and moths he was also interested in entomology generally and would take up a new order every couple of seasons, afterwards giving the carefully mounted specimens to some young aspiring student of the subject. Before his health failed a few years before his death, it was not unusual to find Hammond out in the snow on Boxing Day, splitting logs with an axe to find beetle larvae. Generous, almost to a fault, he was content with gaining new knowledge and found reward in encouraging a new generation of enthusiasts.

Hammond’s main focus was on the larvae of Lepidoptera and, as can be seen by the associated article, he became an expert in their preservation. Raising many larvae into a suitable size for mounting could be somewhat problematic, so his Birmingham garden became a cross between a sanctuary and a fattening pen for many caterpillars. This miniature farm was orderly and well maintained, where trees were pruned to the size of bushes for easy access and micro habitats were constructed to help manage conditions for more demanding food plants.

The skills that Hammond developed in preserving caterpillars were much in demand by fellow entomologists, and he would sometimes receive dozens of boxes of live larvae a week, all dutifully delivered by a postman oblivious to their wriggling contents. His fee for this service was a request that he could have a larva or two for his own collection. During his preparations he encountered many parasitic hymenopteran and dipteran larvae, so he became quite the expert on those also, co-authoring several papers in the Entomologist’s Gazette.

There are numerous collections that have benefited from Harold Hammond’s generosity, including the collection at Warwickshire Museum, where I first saw examples of his work. I was made aware of the article on preserving caterpillars by Lukas Large, who was then volunteering with me during his training at Birmingham. Having seen the quality and quantity of Hammond’s work and the associated method I thought it would be a great idea to publicise this technique, as I think there are not many who have this same talent today.

By all accounts ‘Big Ted’ Hammond was loved and well thought of by all he encountered and his loss was felt by many. Although there are parts of his method that may be considered a little hazardous today, I feel sure that it has been adapted and it would be interesting to hear of any modern techniques that have been developed.

Laura McCoy 08/07/2016

Many thanks to Val McAtear in the Royal Entomology Society’s library for sourcing the below obituary.

  • Smith, K.V.G., (1964), Harold Edward Hammond, F.R.E.S., The Entomologist, Vol. 97, Plate II.

Preserving Caterpillars

Famous Flies – Petiver

Yes. That is the title and this is a blog telling you about some of them. I was tasked with the job of hunting through the thousands of drawers, the hundreds of jars and the millions of slides to find the most famous or most infamous of specimens within the Collection at the Natural History Museum London. I have worked on the fly collection at the museum for over ten years now but still regularly come across hidden gems in the collection. Just in the fly collection, we have approximately 3-4 million specimens (when you see jars swimming with flies you will understand why this estimate has such a large degree of error), that have been collected since the early 17th Century from every geographical region around the world. Some of the collectors are recognisable whilst others are less so but have come to mean so much to us who deal with the collection.

So, let me welcome you to the collection. It is arguably the best fly collection in the world – I admit I may be a little biased but please be patient with me. I get very excited about the flies and forget most of my impartiality. Continue reading

NatSCA Digital Digest- January

Colorado potato beetle, Chalupský 2004, Image in public domain

Colorado potato beetle. Chalupský 2004, Image in public domain

It’s the first NatSCA Digital Digest of the New Year, a time when everyone feels new, fresh, and fully motivated to read everything and do everything… yippee!

 

What’s New to Read?

In the prettiest blog I’ve ever seen, the science education whizzes at ARKive bring you ‘The Magical, Mystical World of Bioluminescence!‘.

In a beautifully written article called Hidden Sea Dragons: Discovering new species of ichthyosaurs in museum collections, guest writer to Earth Archives Dean Lomax writes about recent Ichthyosaur discoveries that are bringing him fame and fortune. Maybe just fame, there are no fortunes to be had in palaeontology… but fame is good enough for us. Continue reading

Accessing Staffordshire Lepidoptera

by Don Steward, Curator (Natural History),

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, City Centre, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 3DW

email: don.steward@stoke.gov.uk

In 2013 the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent Museums (PMAG) were awarded an Arts Council England PRISM Fund grant for the purchase of 4 dedicated insect storage units containing a total of 80 glass-topped entomological drawers to provide conservation quality enclosures for a collection of moths and butterflies, part of Designated Natural History collections held at PMAG. The cabinets and drawers were purchased from Preservation Equipment Ltd.

The 4 insect cabinets installed in biology store

The 4 insect cabinets installed in biology store.

Work has started on the long-term task of transferring a collection of c.8000 specimens amassed by the former Staffordshire Lepidoptera Recorder, Richard G. Warren. It is an amazing resource waiting to be utilized. Over a period of 40 years up until the late 1990s Warren collected specimens locally in this County that is pivotal in the north / south distribution of species. The data associated with these specimens is significant in plotting the distribution of Lepidoptera nationally.

Using volunteer and core staff, the Warren collection is now being systematically moved into the new cabinets and drawers that are housed in the dedicated and environmentally controlled biology store within PMAG. The ultimate aim is for each species to be in individual Plastazote-lined card trays within the drawers. They are arranged according the Bradley & Fletcher 1986 indexed list of British butterflies and moths. Already work experience and volunteer students from the Staffordshire University MSc. course in Ecology and Conservation are involved in collection cataloguing and management to extend their taxonomic knowledge.

Lycaenidae being arranged in the new drawers.

Lycaenidae being arranged in the new drawers.

The new storage will facilitate the long term preservation of the specimens, allow access to specimens and the data associated with them. It will standardise access and we hope to continue this approach to other collections in the future to eliminate a backlog of collections held in user unfriendly hinged wooden storage boxes.

Data associated with specimens is being recorded electronically for the first time. This information will be batched in suitable units and sent to the Staffordshire Ecological Record which records and publishes species data in map form to a dedicated website and passes the data onwards to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN).

Mark Ashby, Joanne O'Keeffe and Lindsay Selmes, Staffordshire University MSc student volunteers sorting lepidoptera.

Mark Ashby, Joanne O’Keeffe and Lindsay Selmes, Staffordshire University MSc student volunteers sorting lepidoptera.

Caring for Entomology Collections

The following post is from Emma-Louise Nicholls of the Grant Museum of Zoology who attended our recent Caring for Entomology Collections Workshop

The scarab beetle shows how pins are used to manipulate the legs whilst the specimen is drying, after which it will maintain its shape.

At the NatSCA course Caring for Entomology Collections held at the NHM in London, I not only got to salivate over the swanky slide cabinets that the Natural History Museum now houses, but I also got to pin a scarab beetle from scratch, peer into a liquid nitrogen freezer at minus 196 degrees, see a grasshopper eating a mouse, eat amazing food (not from the nitrogen freezer), and was even rewarded for my endless questions* with a free gift in the form of a rubber gasket. All in all it was a stupendous day and a course definitely worth attending.

This liquid nitrogen freezer is used to store organic material that would degrade at higher temperatures.

This liquid nitrogen freezer is used to store organic material that would degrade at higher temperatures.

The day was split into eight sections that covered how to prepare your specimens, care for and store your collections, and lots of inspiration for what you can subsequently do with your specimens to make them available to a wider audience. We also talked about how to deal with insects that are not so much the specimen type, but more of the wild roaming, likely to eat your specimens variety. Although there is much to say, here are some highlights.

The Digitisation Project is working to re-house entomology collections and give each specimen an individual QR code for fast and efficient data extraction.

The Digitisation Project is working to re-house entomology collections and give each specimen an individual QR code for fast and efficient data extraction.

We were shown an impressive digitisation project that involved taking a drawer of entomological specimens in need of some TLC, applying both remedial and preventative conservation techniques and then photographing each specimen with a unique QR code. The idea is that in the future, the code can be scanned and will link to metadata on the Museum’s database. Knowing how troublesome paperwork for loans can be, this has exciting implications in terms of simplifying the process and decreasing both the time required and the potential for human error in filling out forms and in transcribing the specimens’ labels.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an essential part of any museum staff members’ knowledge base. Even if a full blown IPM plan is not logistically feasible in your building (as it isn’t in the museum where I work), a knowledge of how and why it works is integral to writing a pest monitoring programme that suits your collection. Housekeeping is, of course, the most important part of keeping museum pests at bay, but even in the best kept collection, pests can and do still occur, and knowing how to monitor and effectively eradicate any outbreaks is integral to preventative conservation of your specimens. It was both interesting and very useful to compare and contrast the problems and protocols that are used by the Natural History Museum with those from my own museum and I came away some useful tips.

The scarab beetle in the centre of this image shows how pins are used to manipulate the legs whilst the specimen is drying, after which it will maintain its shape.

The scarab beetle in the centre of this image shows how pins are used to manipulate the legs whilst the specimen is drying, after which it will maintain its shape.

The element of the course I most enjoyed was the opportunity to both pin an insect specimen, and ask endless questions of the suitably enthusiastic entomologists demonstrating the techniques. There are many more methods used in pinning insects and other invertebrates than I had ever imagined, and being able to have a go myself solidified the information as well as making for an exciting day. I can proudly tell you that the scarab I pinned lost no legs and the metal pin was at a (near) perfect 90 degree angle to the base. It’s all in the teaching no doubt.

Despite both the obvious and more subtle differences between the Natural History Museum and other natural history collections and museums, I felt the information given at the course was delivered in a way as to be directly relevant to all collections represented. Having spoken to the other delegates present, it was unanimously agreed to be a thoroughly useful and interesting day.

– Emma-Louise Nicholls is the Curatorial Assistant at the Grant Museum of Zoology

* May have been an attempt to silence me

Caring For Entomology Collections

Seminar series to explore basic entomology collections management, curation and conservation techniques.

NHM (Natural History Museum), South Kensington, London 9.30am – 4.30pm Friday 1st November 2013

Cost £34 for members or £49 for non-members (remember that becoming a member is just £15 a year!).

This course will cover all basic aspects of collections management for entomological collections, including storage and handling of specimens, loans and legislation, and specimen preparation.

There will be specialist sessions including Integrated Pest Management, storage facilities, spirit curation, specimen pinning, molecular collections, basic slide preparation, documentation and databasing. Tours of the collection areas will also occur.

The course will be both theory and practical supported by a booklet covering both aspects.

Schedule (TBC):

9:30 -10:00 Introduction and Coffee

10:00 -10:30 Entomological Storage

10:30 -11:00 IPM

11:00 – 11:30 Morning Coffee

11:30 – 12:00 Digitisation

12:00 – 12:30 Data-basing

12:30 – 2:00 Lunch

2:00 – 2:30 Specimen pinning

2:30 – 3:00 Slide preparation

3:00 – 3:30 Afternoon Coffee

3:30 – 4:00 molecular collections

4:00 – 4:30 Spirit collections

Download booking form

Contacts:

For further information: Erica McAlister – e.mcalister@nhm.ac.uk

For booking & payment: Holly Morgenroth – holly.morgenroth@exeter.gov.uk

To become a member: Maggie Reilly – maggie.reilly@glasgow.ac.uk