Running a beetle recording scheme

Megan Shersby meets Katy Potts, one of the coordinators of the National Longhorn Beetle Recording Scheme.

Katy Potts Longhorns_CMYK

Katy is curatorial assistant in the Coleoptera section of the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, but her passion for these creatures goes beyond working nine to five – she also spends her spare time managing the National Longhorn Beetle Recording Scheme.

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“I love everything about beetles, and longhorns are such an interesting and beautiful group, so taking on the volunteer role was a no-brainer,” she says.

Katy and fellow entomologist Wil Heeney were approached to run the scheme by Martin Harvey from the Biological Records Centre.

Since it began in 2016, the citizen-science project has received over 10,000 records from across the UK, including sightings of the invasive Asian longhorn beetle. “Our focus is to get people interested in recording longhorn beetles, via iRecord, spreadsheets, photographs or written records,” says Katy.

Wasp beetle. © Michael Meijer/Getty
Wasp beetle. © Michael Meijer/Getty

Records aren’t just limited to the present, as the scheme has also received data from museum collections, which allows for the species’ historical distribution to be mapped.

Katy has always been interested in wildlife and insects, but the turning point in her career came when she became a trainee on an Identification Trainers for the Future placement, run by the NHM, Field Studies Council (FSC) and National Biodiversity Network Trust between 2014 and 2018.

The legacy of the programme continues. “I was taught by specialists about some of the UK’s more cryptic groups of wildlife, and trained in teaching so that I can pass these skills onto others in hope of addressing the decline in taxonomic and field biology skills.”

This led her to then teach a number of courses for the FSC and to lead a trip to Greece with Operation Wallacea, an environmental research and conservation expedition organisation.

Rufous-shouldered longhorn beetle. © Henrik L/Getty
Rufous-shouldered longhorn beetle. © Henrik L/Getty

If that wasn’t enough, Katy and Wil have also been running workshops, doing outreach activities and creating a FSC fold-out identification chart, published in 2018.

“We are proactive on social media to encourage more people to love longhorns, and run a stall at natural history events. I love the moment when you see children’s fascination and curiosity light up, once they see an insect up close, and it ignites a fire within me.”


This article originally appeared in BBC Wildlife. Take a look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe.

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Main image: Katy Potts. © Kevin Thomas