The very happy Caterpillar
I answer just as readily to the name ‘Caterpillar’ as ‘Hayley’. This more unusual name is what my Brownies (age 7-10) and Guides (age 10-14) call me. I’ve been a leader in Girlguiding for about the same amount of time I’ve been a member of the Royal Entomological Society; both started when I was doing my PhD studying moths, hence the choice of name!
I’ve been part of Girlguiding since the age of seven and have always been a massive fan of badges! A badge is a fabric patch that represents an event or a set of activities completed. Some badge types include Interest Badges and Skills Builder badges, which form part of the central Girlguiding programme. Girlguiding members are welcome to create their own badge designs to celebrate events, or Challenge badges to focus on a particular topic of interest. So in 2020 I started the process to create my own badge, uniting my work as an entomologist with my volunteer role in Girlguiding. I hoped to get more young people, especially girls, excited by (or at least less afraid) of insects and other mini beasts!
Incredible Insects badge is hatched
The suggestion of a Girlguiding badge was well received by the RES Outreach committee and they agreed to sponsor its creation. Next, I approached the Commissioner for the Girlguiding county I belong to – Surrey West, who were also keen. Now the badge needed some content!
I had loads of activity ideas but distilled them down into four categories, with all badge-doers needing at least one activity from each:
- What is an insect?
- Go on a bug hunt!
- Make the world a more insect-friendly place
- Make some insect art
Something for all ages, and accessible with minimal resources or equipment was required. I included classics like the table top game beetle (re-imagined as dragonflies to clearly show the insect body-parts). It was also possible to work in some activities already in the Girlguiding programme such as ‘Bottle mansions’ and ‘Biodiversity blitz’.
The amazing GGSW project officer Laura created the badge design, and it was so much better than I could have imagined!
Incredible Insects in action
The badge launched in May 2022. That summer my Guide unit got stuck in to tree beating, bug hotel making, origami beetles and more.
My favourite quote was ‘I can’t believe there’s so many insects right here on the field!’.
The badge sold out its first run of 1000 badges less than a year after launch. Now the badge is making profit which GGSW put towards purchasing mini-beast hunting equipment for their campsites. A new batch of 1000 has been ordered in time for this season, and at County training day I heard from a few other unit leaders who have done or plan to do the badge. That’s a lot of uniform sleeves or camp blankets featuring Incredible Insects!
This summer I’m looking forward to doing the badge with my Brownies. Many of them are mega badge enthusiasts so it will have to wrestle for space on their uniforms!
Badge for all
Although the badge is branded for Girlguiding Surrey West it is open to anyone in the UK (and further afield on special request). I’d love to hear about people far and wide doing the badge and having insecty fun. You can tweet me @hayleyento
To download the badge activity pack visit: ggsw.org.uk/incredible-insects
and order the badges from the GGSW shop: shop.ggsw.org.uk/products/incredible-insects-challenge-badge
Dr Hayley Jones, aka Caterpillar