Moth Collections in Angus and Dundee

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McManus – Derek Robertson Collection

The voluminous Robertson collection at the McManus contains over 4000 moths. Over 1200 of these moths were collected in the county of Angus by Derek Robertson (1930 – 1998), a biology teacher and conservationist who lived in Invergowrie. Derek also bought and traded moths from all over the UK, Europe and the rest of the World; 67 different collectors contributed to the collection. Derek created a stamp collection of moths, he wanted one of every species, and of the 584 species that live in Scotland, he collected 421. He was also interested in the natural variation of species, and he collected large numbers of the same species to compare to one another. Derek’s collection is a rare occurrence in the 21st century. Butterfly and moth collecting was very popular in the Victorian era and until the World Wars. Now there are fewer hobbyists interested in creating their own collections, and the conservationists of today are more likely to photograph wild moths.

University of Dundee – Kenneth Tod Collection

Kenneth Tod (1894-1958) was a horticulturist, artist, businessman, and Monifeith district councillor. He wove rugs using Shetland wool and vegetable dyes that he created himself. Tod’s passion also branched into entomology and ecology. His scientific interest in rare, Alpine moths led him to the University of Dundee which funded his excursions and allowed him to use university facilities. Tod lived and collected in Wellbank, before leaving in 1956 to live in Shetland, presumably for work. Professor Peacock, the head of the Natural History Department at the university bought his collection. Before he left, Tod discovered new locations for two species in Angus, the Northern Dart and the Small Dark Yellow Underwing. But Tod omitted geographical collection data from specimen labels of these moths. He was very aware of the fragility of specialised ecosystems and the attractiveness of rare species to collectors who could potentially overcollect. Alpine species are of particular concern in a warming climate. As the temperature increases, the moths, which like cooler weather, migrate further up their mountains until there is nowhere else to go.

Montrose Museum – Montague Gunning and William Duncan

The oldest collection in Angus is the Gunning & Duncan collection at Montrose Museum. The collection was donated by Gunning, a medical doctor living in Montrose between 1893-1897, and William Duncan, the curator of the museum from 1889 until he retired in 1922. Nothing was known about the moths of Montrose at the time but the two field partners believed the district would prove as biodiverse as Rannoch. Montrose Museum was lacking in insect specimens and didn’t yet own an entomology cabinet. Gunning convinced the Montrose Natural History and Antiquarian Society to buy a new cabinet under the premise that Gunning would donate his entire moth collection. Gunning and Duncan collected most of their moths using a traditional technique called sugaring. Their aim was to create a comprehensive reference collection of all species found in Montrose district to enthuse other naturalists.

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