A bug’s life: how a volunteer army is putting Britain’s wildlife on the record

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Amateur nature recorders are providing vital data on beetles, soldierflies and a host of lesser-known insects

Ashleigh Whiffin’s day job as assistant curator of entomology is to look after National Museums Scotland’s vast collection of preserved insects. But her passion for the creatures doesn’t end when she goes home; in her spare time she spends hours recording and verifying sightings of a specific group of large carrion beetles in the family silphidae.

“Silphidae are absolutely brilliant,” Whiffin says from her Edinburgh office. “They’re decomposers, so they are really vital for recycling and also have forensic applications. Some of the members in the family are called burying beetles and they actually prepare a carcass, make a nest out of the corpse and then feed on the rotting flesh and regurgitate it for their kids. They’re quite a charming – but also grisly – insect.”

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