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Andy Salisbury
Rob Greig

Quit your job, become an... entomologist

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Dr Andrew Salisbury, 42, principal entomologist, Royal Horticultural Society

What's an entomologist?

'Someone who studies insects. There are different specialities, but I'm a horticultural entomologist. We deal with insects and gardens, basically. Some entomologists get to travel to cool places around the world, but most of my research is based in the UK. A lot of my work deals with pest issues. Most of us have our particular interests, and with me it's Coleoptera: beetles.'

Why the beetlemania?

'Their sheer diversity is what's always got me - the range of sizes, life cycles and feeding habits. My favourite is the scarlet lily beetle. It got me on my PhD course, so it has to be! It's bright red, the larvae cover themselves in excrement, and the adults can squeak!'

When did you become interested in bugs?

'Primary school - one of our teachers kept a menagerie of creatures that included tropical cockroaches and locusts. I more or less started by collecting caterpillars and trying to rear them through to butterflies.'

What does a typical day involve?

'It's a real mix. There's a lot of research work where I spend time in the field recording insects. I do a lot of identification, lab work, talks and presentations. I also advise on how to encourage wildlife and pollinating insects into gardens. I especially enjoy talking to members of the public about the invertebrates in their garden. The field work also. The most exciting days are when I open a sample bag and find something I haven't seen before.'

Finally, creepy-crawlies seem to suffer from a PR problem. Tell us something that will make us warm to them.

'It's uncommon, but some insect species display parental care. Female earwigs tend to their eggs, for instance. They're fantastic parents!'

Interview by Sammy Robson

Or why not become a florist?

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