Leading entomologist Andy Foster (who heads up the National Trust’s biological survey team), known ubiquitously as Foz, has a problem with water beetles. For thirty years he’s fruitlessly sought the Brown Water Beetle Agabus brunneus, a scarce species of gravel-bottomed streams which he once found as a boy in Cornwall.
Each year he launches fresh attempts to find this elusive but far from edifying species, which differs from a great many other water beetles only in that it’s dark brown as opposed to black. It is one of a genus of water beetles obtusely named after a minor character in the Acts of the Apostles. We ponder why.
We join Foz in a particularly futile visit to the New Forest, where the streams are in spate and his quarry either hiding deep in the gravel or flushed downstream into The Solent. Field techniques for finding water beetles are demonstrated, perhaps bizarrely. We challenge Foz on to whether Agabus brunneus is merely a figment of a disturbed imagination, and tempt him to give up beetling altogether and retreat to the pub, permanently. In the event, we retire to a nearby tea room to discuss motivation, need, the importance of the Quest, and the remedying nature of tea and cake.
You can listen to today’s programme on BBCR4 at 1.45pm or on the BBC i-player – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nt3xt