During Level 4 and 5 of lockdown many of the KZN Museum’s staff were working remotely. Aside from the usual work, Dr. John Midgley, Head of Natural Science, spent some time collecting insects in his garden.
Part of the job of museum scientists is to expand the museum collections. Apart from what is on display, the KZN Museum holds around 400 000 research items. Filed trips were not allowed under lockdown, but that didn’t stop researchers from adding to the collections. One of the Museum’s specializations is True Flies, which thrive in many different habitats, including gardens. One group of flies which can be common are the Hover Flies. Hover flies often mimic wasps and bees, but are harmless and even helpful in the garden. The larvae of some are decomposers, helping to create good quality soils and compost, while others are predators on aphids, which helps in vegetable and flower gardens. Some people might ask why we need to keep collecting if we already have so many specimens, which is answered by the fact that Dr Midgley collected two species that were previously only known from the Eastern Cape. Better understanding of the distributions of these species lets us improve conservation strategies to keep these beneficial insects thriving in our environments.