The night butterfly Saturnia can be seen in the Pharmaceutical Garden


The first Russian Emperor Peter I and Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov, the famous financier Baron Rothschild and scientist A. V. Tsvetaev, Russian writers Nabokov, Aksakov, Bulgakov, academician I. P. Pavlov and even the scandalous "pyramid builder" Sergei Mavrodi ... What unites these people ? All of them belong to the community of entomologists-collectors! People began to get involved in collecting insects in antiquity, but this occupation gained the greatest popularity in the 19th century, when the natural sciences began to develop rapidly. Collecting beetles and butterflies is not an easy task, it requires special knowledge, endurance, patience, accuracy and painstaking continuous work to preserve the collection.

The famous Pharmaceutical Garden is not just one of the oldest and most beautiful parks in the capital. It has a unique status - educational, which means that it has scientific and educational, educational, and cultural tasks. Lectures, master classes, festivals and exhibitions are held here. One of them attracts many visitors: "Aesthetics and richness of the world of insects."

butterflies, insects, photo Mikhail Kovalev

The exhibition can safely be called the most-most: here are the largest, most beautiful, heavy, fast, scary, spectacular from the world of insects - butterflies, beetles, orthoptera, stick insects, praying mantises, dragonflies. All these champions are from the private collection of Andrey Vladimirovich Sochivko - an artist, entomologist, photographer, employee of the Museum of Geography of Moscow State University, full member of the Moscow Institute of Natural History, Russian Entomological and Russian Geographical Societies, participant and organizer of over 50 expeditions to different countries of three continents - Eurasia, Africa, South America . His private collection, one of the largest in Russia, can decorate any famous natural science museum. Andrei is an artist turned entomologist, an amateur who has received well-deserved recognition from professionals, the author of many books, including the extremely popular Miracles of the Microworld.

butterflies, insects, photo Mikhail Kovalev

The collection of A. V. Sochivko has about 200 thousand exhibits, about 500 are presented at the exhibition. Most of the exhibition is devoted to the order Lepidoptera, or butterflies. In Andrey Sochivko's collection, one can see unique giant butterflies, for example, the agrippina scoop, which the collector caught in the upper reaches of the Amazon during the 1997 South American expedition to Peru. The wingspan of agrippina can reach 30 centimeters, it has the strength of a bird and easily breaks out of the trap. And here are the unusual night butterflies of Saturnia, or peacock-eyes. In some Saturnians, in the process of evolution, long tail-like outgrowths with twisted petals at the ends formed on the hind wings, and this has a rational explanation: when a butterfly flies, the wings of the wings rotate and flutter, this acts on predators like a lure on a fish. Seeing the bait, the hunters try to grab the butterfly by the "tail", but it easily breaks off and remains in the enemy's mouth, and the butterfly flies away.

butterflies, insects, photo Mikhail Kovalev

In the next showcase, the wings of ghostly helicopters are shimmering - large long-bodied dragonflies with a wingspan of 15 - 17 centimeters. They got into the collection thanks to expeditions to South America. Against the background of these giants, a thin transparent buttercup is almost invisible - the smallest dragonfly in the world from the island of Cuba. Its wingspan is only 2 centimeters! And next to it is the largest dragonfly in Europe with the funny name Large rocker - we often see it in the forests near Moscow.

butterflies, insects, photo Mikhail Kovalev

Behind the striped-spotted antlions and transparent threadflies, it is the turn of lepidoptera insects, and next to it are thick hairy cicadas, a superfamily of winged insects that live mainly underground.
The largest of all cicadas is Regal, which is considered the largest on the planet. Its body length is 65 mm, and its wingspan is 217 mm. These giants are found on the territory of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. The coloring of the regal creatures resembles the bark of a tree, on which the cicada insect spends most of its terrestrial life. Transparent wings also do not spoil the disguise, so it is really difficult to notice such a large creature. Singing cicadas have chosen regions with a hot and humid climate. Therefore, about 1,500 species can be found in the tropics. Only males make a deafening chirp - they rub their wings against each other, and, using a special organ on their exoskeleton, called the timbal organ, they emit a series of quick clicks, with one sound to attract partners, and the other to scare away predators. Their "songs" can reach 120 decibels - that's as loud as a chainsaw and even louder than live rock music - and can be heard up to 1 mile away. Now it is clear why a group of singing cicadas is called a choir!

butterflies, insects, photo Mikhail Kovalev

At the exhibition of Andrey Sochivko, the attention of visitors is invariably attracted by a showcase with representatives of the largest order of insects - Coleoptera, or beetles. The coleopteran armada is led by the famous harlequin beetle, or long-armed barbel. Many beetles have long whiskers, but no one else has such long forelimbs as the harlequin beetle. They are supposed to help him climb trees. On the other hand, many beetles are related to trees in one way or another, but for some reason they manage with short legs. And the harlequin had such an unexpected adaptation. There are also the heaviest beetles of the world from the genus Megasoma, which means "large-bodied", on display. The weight of live South American giants can reach 150 grams with a body length of 12 - 13 centimeters - approximately like a medium-sized bird. These are slow, shiny black monsters with strong tusk-like outgrowths on their heads. In almost the same weight category are the mighty Central African goliath beetles. They fly beautifully, and their back is decorated with contrasting patterns, reminiscent of the patterns on the ritual masks of the natives. Next to the goliaths, she eerily parted the curved jaws of a manticore, the largest horse beetle native to Malawi. Horses are the tigers of the arthropod world; they prey on anyone they can handle.

butterflies, insects, photo Mikhail Kovalev

Praying mantises lurked in another window. Little is brought from expeditions of these few insects. The search for praying mantis turns into a separate event, they are extremely interesting to watch. The vast majority of praying mantises have well-developed wings, actively move, and you need to be patient to track down and catch the insect. Many of the praying mantises resemble dried twisted leaves, plant shoots, sticks or slivers, such as the thin and graceful bristly praying mantis brought from Borneo.

And here are the ghosts! Do not be afraid, ghosts - as entomologists figuratively called them - have an incredible resemblance to parts of plants and have learned how to use it remarkably (for example, stick insects). They never run away from their enemies, but try to play dead. If you touch a stick insect, it will freeze or fall to the ground, showing you that you made a mistake and do not take a living insect, but a dry twig. Some stick insects, scaring off the enemy, can demonstrate bright, colorful wings, unfolding them like a fan. Finding a stick insect, even a very large one, is extremely difficult.

The exhibition combines aesthetic and systematic principles, which attracts both a wide audience and specialist entomologists. Each exhibit is provided with an informative label indicating the Latin name of the species, the Russian name, and the region of origin. Author's photographs of insects in their natural habitat perfectly complement the journey through the wonderful world of insects, drawing attention to the inexhaustible richness and beauty of wildlife.

Mikhail Kovalyov.

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