Despite being something of a concrete jungle, Hong Kong was named the most biodiverse city in Asia this year by wildlife documentation app iNature, boasting 236 species of butterflies and 123 species of dragonflies. But how many Hongkongers understand their importance?
“If something is small, human beings ignore it, which is a big problem,” says Robert Oelman, the American wildlife photographer featured in Learning to See (2016), a documentary about loss of habitat and its impact on insect species. The film will be screened next month at the launch of Bug Hunt Hong Kong, a citizen science project designed to inspire people to get out and about with a magnifying glass, collect bugs and then study them in a lab.
Before becoming an advocate for insects, Oelman had to get over his aversion to them – a story that will resonate with Hongkongers who feel uneasy around creepy-crawlies, says Maria Li Lok-yee, a co-founder of science group DIY Bio Hong Kong, the organiser of Bug Hunt.
“Not many people in Hong Kong care about insects – some people are scared,” she says. “We want to show them how to observe how they live and how they affect our lives.”
Spotting arthropods – and we are not talking only cockroaches and mosquitoes here – is as simple as finding a green space and looking closely, Li says.
“There are many things in daily life related to bugs,” she adds. “For example, the food we eat depends on pollinators and the cotton used in fashion also relies on bugs […] Look closely at your surroundings and you’ll find that insects help make the world a better place.”
Following the film screening, DIY Bio – which was founded two years ago by Li and fellow biologist Gert Grobler – will announce details about a series of upcoming workshops to teach entomological skills, such as insect identification and pinning, and DNA barcoding.
Learning to See will be shown on July 5 at 7pm at LT4, Yeung Kin Man Academic Building, City University, Kowloon Tong. For tickets, go to eventbrite.hk. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and mead tasting session.