About Me

meI have been an amateur entomologist since childhood – in fact for as long as I can remember I have been turning over stones and catching things. I have always had an intense curiosity and a need to identify things.

Like most budding entomologists, I started with butterflies and then moved onto moths – spending 12 years doing a personal moth-trapping project on my local nature reserve. Around 1998 I decided that I needed to stretch my knowledge a bit more and started to look at other orders – namely Diptera & Hymenoptera.

After a year or so dabbling with hoverflies I put myself on the Parasitic Hymenoptera course at Imperial College and this grounded my knowledge of entomology, taxonomy and insect curation while opening my eyes to the wonderful world of parasitoids! I spent a few years studying parasitica before going on the Dipterist’s Forum Tachinid Workshop, run by Robert Belshaw. While on this course I realised that tachinids were much easier to study than parasitica, because there is a good, comprehensive key, and there was nobody in the UK specialising in them.

After a few discussions I teamed up with Matt Smith (a local entomological consultant and good friend) to form the UK Tachinid Recording Sceme. Since then I have been improving my knowledge of the group in my spare time while promoting them amongst other entomologists and working to make the family easier to study. The first part of this was to create a website for the scheme to hold keys and articles that pull together lots of disparate sources and provide a one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to study tachinids in the UK. I also teamed up with Rotraud Rayner and together we translated the Central European key from German into England and this important resource is now available for download from our website – free of charge and with the kind permission of the author, Peter Tschorsnig.

meRecently I have tried to broaden my knowledge of world tachinids by networking with other dipterists in Europe and America. I have taken on samples from places as far apart as Russia, Finland & Portugal and in exchange for the specimens I have provided the collectors with identifications.

My latest and most ambitious project started when I visited French Guiana and took away some Malaise trapped tachinids. They sat in a box until the horrendous, wet summer of 2008 (when I hardly left the house!) when an idea realized itself. Instead of trying to identify the specimens to species (an extremely difficult task in the neotropics due to the vast number of species, the lack of keys and the confused nature of the taxonomy) I would sort them into taxon-groups. These groups would just be as close to “species” as I could get, based on my limited knowledge of the fauna, and using keying features present in Palearctic keys. I teamed up with Jean Cerda & Odette Morvan (entomologists who live in the Mtn de Kaw region of French Guiana) and they have very generously agreed to provide me with Malaise trap samples.

Much of this blog will be dedicated to my findings.


16 Replies to “About Me”

  1. Hello Chris,
    You may have heard from me via Sofia Gripenberg. I’m writing a little article on UK work on the decline of the Small Tortoiseshell (which is declining in France as well as the UK) and I would like to include a photo of Sturmia bella. If you are prepared to let me use one (which I would credit as yours, of course) I would be very grateful. Previous attemps to contact you via your blog have failed – don’t know what I did wrong! Here’s hoping that this time ..
    Kind regards,

  2. Hello Chris
    I am working with Neath Port Talbot Council’s biodiversity team here in South Wales. We are trying to put together a leaflet on the Hornet Robber Fly for the public, but also aimed at local farmers etc, to try to dissuade them from using ivermectins. If possible I would like to use your excellent photograph (from 8th August 2009). Naturally we would respect your copyright and identify you as the photographer and could pay a reasonable fee (this is not a big budget project!). Please let me know what you think
    Steve Bolchover

  3. Chris,with what kind of camera and objective do you make the photo’s? I try to take pics of perhaps somewhat smaller flies with my Canon EOS 300D and Tamron 90mm 1:2,8 Macro 1:1 objective with Macro Twin MT-24EX flash, but the quality is compared with your pictures just terrible.



  4. Hi Ruud – glad you like my photos – many thanks for the kind words 😀

    All of my specimen photos are taken using a Canon Powershot G7 compact camera. The camera has a resolution of 10 megapixels and plenty of exposure compensation, white balance, metering and manual modes that allow me to compensate for the unusual lighting. I pre-configure the camera’s white balance, macro-mode, spot-metering & smallest aperture (f8) and then save those under one of the camera’s custom settings so that I can quickly reset to the best settings each time.

    I create a simple light box using a mini-fluorescent light and a white unit-tray – sometimes also with more white reflectors either side or underneath the specimen – this floods the specimen with flat, white light. Then I hold the camera very close to the specimen (about 3-5cm, set on wide-angle) and take the photos – using the exposure compensation to adjust for any inaccuracies in the spot-metering caused by the contrasty subject. I do quite a lot of bracketting and discard a few images in each batch for being over/under exposed.

    Then in PhotoShop I Crop to an appropriate size (usually 800×600); then use Shadow/Highlight to flatten the highlights and lift-out the shadows; then I use Levels to raise the contrast and balance the image a bit; then I finish with a little Smart Sharpen and export the image using Save for Web & Devices (set to High quality).

    It is possible to get some truly excellent results with a dSLR and a good macro lens (like the MP-E 65) but I have found that for simplicity my setup is hard to beat. The images aren’t always great when you look at them closely but they are quick & easy to produce and the combination of the wide-angle lens, high resolution and sensor size apparently work in my favour, giving a good depth of focus and a relatively high magnification 🙂

  5. Very nervous about doing this Chris. We have corresponded some years ago. Both my husband John and I have had serious illnesses in recent yeats but we continue to warden Downe Bank for Kent Wildlife Trust. I’m on the Steering Group to make ‘Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory’ a WHS (The UK Nomination to UNESCO this year. For my sins, I’ve also become a Vice-president of Kent Wildlife Trust and President of the South London Botanical Institute. Inevitably, as Downe Bank was Darwin’s Orchis Bank, orchid pollination has interested us for some years. I’m currently preparing a lecture ‘Sex and deception in orchids’ and would love to have some of your euglossine bee images – would that be possible? We could scan the web images (with your permission, but you might be able to send me the 3 lovely Euglossa sp. shown from above. Darwin is all about the web-of-life, so I want to show some of the insects and in this case, both orchids and other flowers the bees visit (brazil nut) + macaw. I’m toning the title down for the future and calling it ‘The weird and wonderful world of orchids’. Luckliy we maanaged to travel quite a bit before insurance got prohibitive. Pleased to see you’re still very active. I still have some of your graphs from Hartslock. All good wishes, Irene

  6. Hello Chris, this is an amateur insect collector like you. Today ı discovered your blog and got many useful knoeledge. Thanks for your share. I live in Adana Turkey and work for a Bank. Here in Adana, it is hard to find suitabla equıpment for reptile collecting. For example ı use common pins. I think ın the future ı may advance my collection and have better specimens. I would like to communicate with you.
    Take good care

  7. Hi Chris, i’m a french dipterist. I’m writing a synthesis about hoverflies in Basse-Normandy (210 species), I would like to use a photo of Arctophila superbiens that is on your website. If you’re agree please tell me you complete name please so that I add it under the photo and I will add your name too in aknowledgements. Thanks a lot 🙂

    ps: if you’ve got a photo galery with hoverflies I would be glad to search for others photos…

  8. Hi Chris, i’m a french dipterist. I’m writing a synthesis about hoverflies in Normandy, I would like to use a photo of Arctophila superbiens that is on your website. If you’re agree please let me you complete name so that I add it under the photo and in aknowledgements. Thanks a lot 🙂

    ps: if you’ve got a photo galery with hoverflies I would be glad to search for others photos…

  9. Hi Chris,
    I am french and I would like to show your photo of the Stratiomys potamida for a photo exhibition about “Freshwater Life” (in Chartrettes a village near Paris)
    If you agree please give your complet name so that I can add it under your photo.
    If you are interested I can send you a photo of a stratiomys larva .
    Merci beaucoup
    Cordialement Heidi

  10. Hi Chris

    I’m writing about the small tortoiseshell on my blog (URL above) which has led me to Sturmia bella. Please may I include one or two of your photographs of S. bella? I’d credit you, of course. I’m linking to your tachinid website anyway, but my article’s short of photos.

    Best wishes
    Sam Mason

  11. Hello Chris:

    I am very impressed with your web site and the work you are doing. I too am an amateur entomologist, or at least I spend most of my time spare photographing and identifying insects. I am wondering if you can help me out with two identifications. The photos were taken along the Rio Madre de Dios in the Puerto Maldonado area of Peru. I believe they are both Tachinid flies but I am having difficulty identifying them beyond that. To me, the black one looks similar to Cordyligaster sp. but aspects of the thorax and wings don’t look quite right. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Regards. Karl

  12. Dear Chris,

    Hi, my name is Diego and I am a PhD student at the National University of Singapore. I am also studying flies (Sepsidae) morphology. One of the body parts I am focusing is the male genitalia, for which I have produced SEM and light microscopy images for 50 species. I am now trying to compare (and propose homology hypotheses) for the different “penis” structures that I’ve found and I would like to compare the Sepsidae genitalia with other flies. Most of it I am doing by revising some taxonomic publications, but most of them lack photographic resolution and details.

    I’ve found via google that you have a session on your blog dedicated to some stacks of some Sarcophagidae genitalia (http://chrisraper.org.uk/blog/?p=5557) , which are visually beautiful and very informative, and indeed, helping me a bit with my comparison.

    Therefore, I would like to know if you make those images available for scientific purposes? In case I need, can I have your permission to use them in my thesis. I will acknowledge you! Otherwise, I will just rely on the current published data.

    Thank you for your attention,

  13. Hi there, I think I am a distant relative of William Dowler. Do you have any history about him and his sons? I am trying to find any family history. Thanks Kim

  14. HAllo Chris, I just wanted to say a big thank you for your Japanese incense blog. I used to get some from a supplier some years back but they disappeared off the scene, but I have since discovered Vectis Karma and found them to be very good. I am finding out so much from your helpful crib sheets and look forward to experiencing some wonderful scents. I have had a peek at the japanese site’s and the mind boggling prices, how fantastic must that incense be!!!
    I wont be buying from Japan though as finance will not go to that, but I am going to get a small note book to start my own recording of what I like ect. So here’s to you Chris on all your ventures

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