The Balfour-Browne Club


The Club was formed in 1976 as a group dedicated to the study of water beetles. It was named in honour of Professor Frank Balfour-Browne (1874-1967), the British doyen of water beetles. In 1976, the membership was largely British though a special effort was made to keep up-to-date with the literature and activities of coleopterists in the rest of Europe, as these were so often the source of new information concerning the British fauna. Our special links in Britain are now largely through the national recording scheme and through our involvement with the Linnean Society of London as one of its study groups.

Fifty newsletters were produced from 1976 to 1992. Their contents reflect the steadily increasing interest in European Coleoptera as a whole. However, this was associated with the need to keep contributors up-to-date on the British recording scheme, started in 1979 and still run by Garth Foster.

The newsletter was renamed Latissimus in 1992. This is the specific epithet of the largest European Dytiscus, and also means "widest" [though many members note that it implies "most late"!]. As such, it indicates an interest in water beetles as a whole, rather than from the narrow base on which the Club started. D. latissimus has never been reported from Britain. The same is largely true of our Club meetings since 1988, when 27 members met in the Hague. Subsequently we have held meetings in France (Troyes 1989, Bordeaux 1992, Normandy 1995, Poitiers 2000), Scotland (1996), Spain (León 1990, Barcelona 1994, Albacete and Córdoba 2002), Denmark (Jutland in 1991), Poland (Słupsk in 1993), Germany (Gotha in 1997) and the Czech Republic (Liberec in 1998). In 1999 we came back to England (New Forest in April). The Bodensee (Lake Constance) in Austria provided the venue in June 2001, we travelled across central Spain in 2002, we were in the west of Ireland in 2003, the Netherlands in 2004, and Latvia in 2005. The Norfolk Broads will be visited in 2006 by way of celebrating the Centenary of the major ecological survey undertaken by Professor Balfour-Browne in 1903-1906.

There are about 300 members scattered over 37 countries. Most members are expected to pay a levy, now requested at 2-3 year intervals, but those unable to pay are still welcome. Everyone is expected to send reprints for review in Latissimus, plus, of course, short articles. The Club's library, which is a combination of modern material with the libraries of Professor Balfour-Browne and his son, Jack Balfour-Browne, is looked after by the Secretary. Books and papers can be loaned or copied for members.

The other Club service most in use is advice on identification, originally intended to promote recording for the British mapping scheme. This formalises one of the best traditions of entomology. Anyone trying to identify water beetles for the first time, or requiring confirmation of beetles from under-recorded areas in Britain and Ireland, should contact the Secretary to take advantage of the free service. The Secretary can usually indicate members willing to help with identification of beetles found elsewhere. Organisations likely to benefit financially from assistance should expect to pay for services though it is hoped that no member will profit from matters relating to the conservation of Red Data Book/Red List species.

Developers requiring data for environmental assessments are expected to pay commercial rates for access to recording scheme data. Fees are paid into Club funds and are mainly used to maintain the library. The Aquatic Coleoptera Conservation Trust was set up in 2003 mainly to administer research funds associated with UK Biodiversity Action Plan species.

The Club is managed by the office bearers (Chairman - Robert Angus; Hon. Secretary - Garth Foster; Hon. Treasurer - Ron Carr; Factotum ­ David Bilton; Orator ­ Derek Lott) supported by a committee. The Club's first president was the late Jack Balfour-Browne. Our present president, since 1998, is Professor Russell Coope. We do have a Constitution somewhere but we really prefer to keep everything as informal as possible. Things get done best by informal contact with the many friends we have made throughout Europe as a result of our mutual regard of water beetles.

The current objectives of the Club are

1.                           promote the study of aquatic Coleoptera on as wide a base as possible.

2.                           encourage networking between wetland coleopterists by means of a newsletter and meetings.

3.                           promote the conservation of water beetles.

4.                           promote the recording scheme in Britain and Ireland.

5.                           provide an identification service.

6.                           maintain a library.

January 2006

Honorary Secretary - Professor G N Foster, 3 Eglinton Terrace, Ayr KA7 1JJ, Scotland, UK

Honorary Treasurer - Mr R Carr, 9, The Mallows, Monckton's Lane, Maidstone, Kent ME14 2PX, England, UK