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As I’m sure you all know by now, I spend a couple of days each week volunteering at the Mary Gillham Archive Project, part of which involves extracting wildlife records from a huge number of folders absolutely stuffed full of the long lists of species Mary saw every time she stepped outside her house (and some inside her house as well). From attending lectures, watching television programmes, talking to people, reading journal articles, Mary also amassed a wealth of information about the flora and fauna of Britain so we learn a lot of fascinating details just from reading through all the paperwork.


Today I was reading about the Common earwig (Forficula auricularia) and was struck by this incredible detail: ‘The earwig mother cares for her young. She licks them – very necessary to keep them free of fungal infection.’ Apparently, the female earwig, who can be recognised by her straight rear pincers (the male’s are curved), spends the wintertime in a tunnel in the soil looking after her eggs, restacking them, sometimes moving them to a different part of the tunnel, and cleaning them to keep them fungi free. From the time they are born until they reach the second instar stage and leave the nest, she brings them plant and animal matter to eat and also regurgitates food for them. Perhaps the gardeners among you will now look more kindly on the earwigs that are chewing your dahlias – they might just have babies to feed.