Author Michael Blencowe
It was 1977 when I first encountered the hornet robberfly. I was seven years old and out with my family on Dartmoor. I remember laying in the sun listening to music on our chunky Roberts radio (I’d like to think it was The Clash, but, if my mum had anything to do with it, it was probably Barry Manilow).
I had wandered off alone, binoculars in hand, when I heard a buzz. Not a prolonged buzz like a bumblebee – but a short and snappy buzz and an incredible creature landed in front of me. A fly. A big fly. It was orange, with a spiky beak and huge eyes and looked like something from that crazy cantina in Star Wars - a movie I had just seen at the cinema. I was captivated by this fly! But each time I approached it flew with that short, snappy buzz until eventually it was gone. It was so unlike any other insect that I had seen in my ‘I-Spy’ and ‘Spotters Guide’ books that I thought it may have indeed flown here from a galaxy far, far away.
I’ve been looking for another one ever since.
Years later I discovered it was the endangered hornet robberfly – a predatory insect that requires habitats with plenty of animal dung. Now, everytime I go wandering, I carry a net – hoping to catch one and get a closer look at this wonderful insect before releasing it.
In 2011 I started a fantastic new role with the Sussex Wildlife Trust as their Community Wildlife Officer. I’m based in Lewes and I’ll be leading many events in the area. Lewes is surrounded by great countryside and the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserves at Malling Down and Southerham are just a few minutes walk from the town centre.
Recently I was out exploring the Lewes Downs in the late summer sunshine. I heard a short, snappy buzz behind me. In an instant all I could think of was Barry Manilow, Chewbacca and that little boy on Dartmoor. My hands tightened around the handle of my net as I turned and faced an old friend…
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Sussex Wildlife Trust's Lewes Community Wildlife Project