14 July 2009
More than 900 school pupils from across the region will be helping Bristol University scientists this week when they find out if their 'alien has been zapped'. Dr Darren Evans and Dr Michael Pocock from the University's School of Biological Sciences are leading the experiment, which aims to discover how effective natural pest controllers are at preventing the 'alien' moths from damaging the leaves of horse chestnut (conker) trees.
Dr Evans said: ‘As biologists it’s very exciting for us as this is the first time anyone has looked at how many alien moths on conker trees across the country have been attacked by natural pest controlling insects.’
The team will be visiting schools in the region giving out bags containing the experiment apparatus, a sealed bag with a leaf and a tiny moth caterpillar inside. Pupils will be asked to report (two weeks later) what comes out of the leaf atwww.ourweboflife.org.uk. It will either be moths or what looks like tiny flies, which are the natural pest controllers. Pupils will then need to enter their results on the experiment's website and will be able to compare them with the results of other participants.
Dr Pocock added: ‘As well as showing pupils how important insects are, both as pests and pest controllers, the experiment will introduce the children to a part of “our web of life”, the complex system that links all living things.’
The experiment is supported by the University’s Centre for Public Engagement, the British Ecological Society and the Natural Environment Research Council.