Monthly Archives: June 2013


Here’s a treat to end the week.
Frazer has compiled clips from Wychwood Festival to create a trailer for our forthcoming road movie.

So without further ado…

Museum Piece

We have a new date to add to our ecology roadshow extravaganza! 
We’re delighted that the Natural History Museum has invited us to be part of their Big Nature Day on the 13th July.

BND is an annual nature fair with lots of free activities “from worm charming and looking for ladybirds, to dressing up as a bee inside a big display case, and meeting experts from visiting wildlife groups, there’s something for everyone to get closer to nature”. 

The activities run from 11am to 5pm and most of them (including ‘Sex & Bugs & Rock ‘n Roll’) will be in the marquee in the Darwin Centre Courtyard, so come and find us there to see live bumblebees, find out about mushroom smells and pit your wits against our #poogame.

See you there!

Down the Road

How exciting! Following the success of our weekend at Wychwood Festival, we can now confirm our final ‘tour date’: 

We’ll be taking the weird and wonderful world of ecology to Larmer Tree Festival!
The festival takes place from the 17th to 21st July in the Larmer Tree Gardens on the Wiltshire/Dorset border. It’s a quirky, friendly and fun festival and we’re really looking forward to setting up the ‘Sex and Bugs and Rock ‘n Roll’ stall in the Global Bazaar area.The line up is pretty awesome with a little something for everyone – including Van Morrison, KT Tunstall, Lau, Richard Thompson, Treetop Fliers, Bellowhead, Seasick Steve, Imelda May… There’s also a great comedy line-up with Dylan Moran and Rich Hall among many others.

Biological Radio

Saving Bugs by Blossom

From Sarah D: After a very chilly night we were welcomed by another bright day on Sunday. Our, now regular, bug hunters did us proud, turning up early with finds from around their tents. It was a particularly good day for soldier beetles! 

My highlight was a wonderful picture we received from Blossom, one of our first-time bug hunters: a stunning drawing of some mini beasts with the inspiring title on the back ‘Saving Bugs’ – thanks Blossom! 
Happy roadies, from left to right:
Hannah, Will, Sarah D., Alexe,
Helen, Em, Frazer

Our festival kit microbes had also started to grow, somewhat delayed by the coldish weather, and I was equally pleased and horrified to find out my wellies were at the top of the grossometer scale! 

I was sad to close up for the last time at 4pm for the parade – Everyone who dropped by made the Wychwood Festival outing of Sex & Bugs & Rock ‘n Roll a great experience!

Our chalkboard, illustrated
by Tony De Saulles

From Em: During the day, Sunday was a bit calmer and Frazer and I took some time wandering round the festival site taking pictures of people wearing their badges or stickers and chatting to other contributors and the guys in the press tent. 
The day’s excitement started when Tony de Saulles, illustrator of the ‘Horrible Science’ series beautified our bug-hunt chalkboard. Thanks Tony! Philip Ardagh also stopped by after his session at the literature tent and his son knew loads about being an amateur naturalist.

As we closed the stall up early, we took a mobile ‘swabbing station’ with us, and boy was that a great idea. We made a first trip backstage to swab festival organisers Graeme and Stefan – their surprisingly clean plates are on view here in the Microbe Hall of Shame. 

Explaining the science of
swabbing to Greg Dread
Then, thanks to Hannah’s initiative, we made a second trip backstage to swab Greg Dread just before he went on stage with Dreadzone for the final (and, in my humble opinion, best) gig of the festival. We explained what we were doing to a slightly bemused Greg, who then agreed to let us swab the armpits of his jacket. Pity we didn’t think to get another swab after he’d spent a good hour energetically pounding on the drums! In any case, it’ll be interesting to see the comments on Dreadzone’s Facebook page… and there are more photos here.

Greg Dread has been swabbed!
And so concludes our final instalment from Wychwood Festival. Thanks to everyone for making this such an amazing and memorable experience!


Once we’ve all caught up on sleep, we’ll start preparing for the next event…. watch this space!

Saturday Superhouse

Wychwood Festival Part II (and lots more photos on our photostream)

A bugs’-eye view of the #BESfest stall
Sarah D: Saturday brought more sunshine, yay! I lead an early morning bug hunt where the brilliant hunters found a crane fly larvae (with a very interesting bottom!), woodlice, centipedes, ants and more beetles. Some of our Friday hunters returned with various beasties they had found around the site, broadening our search area. These included the brightly colour soldier beetle, a click beetle and bristle tail. 

Bughunter supreme: Chloe
with her well-earned FSC cha
It was really fascinating chatting to so many people, and I learnt a lot from people dropping by the tent. I was very impressed with how knowledgeable our visitors of all ages were. Discussions ranged from how to recognise frog poo (very tricky for most people including me) to the potential factors contributing towards bee decline.

Miss Bear has been swabbed

Em: Saturday was also a pretty interesting day for investigating microbes on festival kit. Some rather unusual characters took their place on the swab throne – and I’m pleased to say that Snot the Dragon and Miss Bear were some of our more sanitary visitors (especially as they were a big hit with the kids).

Snot the Dragon in the swab
‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello…
The highlight of the days’ swabbing action was a visit by two bobbies from the Gloucestershire Constabulary and the chance to take a closer look at the microbial growth on PC562 Robertson’s handcuffs and ASP baton (not every girl can say she’s swabbed a policeman’s truncheon 😉 

You can see all the swabs we took during the festival in the ‘Microbe Hall of Shame‘.

I also managed to plan my shift so I could go and see John Otway (with Deadly the Roadie). It was a brilliantly hilarious show complete with popping shirt buttons (Bodymusic), a Bob Dylan version of ‘I will survive’ and a tribute to hecklers with ‘House of the Rising Sun’ – It’s nearly rock ‘n roll but I like it!

Saturday ended with 80’s nostalgia (for some, anyway) as The Human League took to the main stage.

There are loads more photos now on our photostream – thanks Frazer!

Don’t you want me baby?

Here comes the sun

We’re back from a truly amazing weekend at Wychwood Festival, where we wowed around 1000 festival-goers with the weird and wonderful world of ecology. The Wychwood team was: Alexe, Emma, Frazer, Hannah, Helen, Sarah D. and Will – we had the whole shebang including the infamous #poogame, a live bumblebee hive (thanks to BioBest), a honeybee hive, bughunting, swabbing and mushroom sniffing!

The S&B&R&R stall at Wychwood Festival

First off, we’d like to thank Graeme, Jem and Stefan for organising such a great festival and making it all possible – we couldn’t have got off to a better start! And, of course, a big thank you to the many enthusiastic visitors to our stall.

We have loads of photos from our three days on Cheltenham Racecourse, so keep checking our photostream over the next few days as we upload more. There’s an album of general festival photos and a separate set of swabbing piks. Photos of the microbial cultures from people’s festival kit will be appearing shortly!
There’s also a lot to blog about, so we’re going to do it in instalments… 

Beginnings (Wychwood Part I)

Team meeting with wellies
We set off on Thursday to overcast skies and arrived on a very soggy Cheltenham Racecourse in the mid-afternoon. It didn’t take long to find our pitch and set-up the stall opposite the circus tent in the workshop area. In fact, it took longer to get our campsite established because it kept raining. 
Once we were all sorted, we trundled off to the Royal Oak in Prestbury for a team meeting and an excellent dinner.

Alexe explains the honeybee hive
We woke up to bright sunshine on Friday morning; we ran through all the activities before taking a stroll around the rest of the site to see what else was on and collect a few plants and insects to put on display. We also needed a bit of time to get used to the idea that – after many months of discussion and preparation – this was really happening! It’s really something to see a crazy idea you cooked up over a few pints in the pub become reality. 

Frazer with the #poogame
The festival proper kicked off at midday on Friday and we were really busy until we closed up shop around 6pm – we had over 300 visitors on our first afternoon. 
We ended the working day with a group evaluation of the activities back at the campsite before we headed off to see Toploader and Soul II Soul. Some of the team then continued to celebrate the successful start at the headphone disco – but no-one was the worse for wear and we started the first shift bright and early on Saturday morning… (…coming soon!).

How many microbes are on my hands?