Thursday 17 September 2020

Brilliant Bugs: new stamp issue 1 October 2020. Attractive but unnecessary?

Another new stamp issue comes from Royal Mail on 1 October.  Although we have refrained from writing much until the emargbo date (which was supposed to be the issue date), the stamps now appear on Royal Mail's shop website.

Alert readers will note that I have replaced the Brilliant Bugs images with images of similar stamps by the same illustrator, Richard Lewington. 


This is because, despite the Bugs stamps being visible on Royal Mail's shop, as linked here, I have been told that "but these are only found if searched for and the stamps are shown in the context of the products".   (Type the words royal mail brilliant bugs into your favourite search engine to find them.)

The Bugs are also shown (in poor resolution) on the Commonwealth Stamps Opinion blog, but then the author doesn't have an dealer account with Royal Mail, so he will not be sanctioned in the same way. 

Update 5 October - the new stamps are shown here

But why?  What's the event?

Of course the short answer is that there isn't one.  As we in the northern hemisphere enter autumn - although the last week has been unseasonably warm even for an Indian Summer in September - the bees, butterflies and other insects are starting to disappear.  Certainly there weren't too many around a couple of weeks ago!   So this is what Royal Mail have to say:

To celebrate the enormous diversity, intrigue and importance of pollinating insects in the UK, Royal Mail is pleased to issue stamps that celebrate pollinators found in the UK and explore the range, beyond bees and butterflies, and include other often overlooked important pollinators like moths, beetles, hoverflies and wasps.

It is estimated that there are more than 5 million insect species on Earth. These ‘brilliant bugs’ contribute to essential natural processes in varied and diverse ways. Some ensure the functioning of ecosystems through decomposition – efficiently recycling dead and decaying matter. Others feed on pest insects and so protect plants, including the crops we rely on for food.

These pollinators are responsible for pollination of vast quantities of food crops for humans and farm animals and the pollination of wild plants including flowers and some trees. (In Europe 4 out of 5 crops and wild flowers rely, at least in part, on insects to pollinate and hence reproduce). Sadly, there is evidence the numbers of insects are declining and we are proud to highlight this important area of conservation through this stamp issue.

UPDATE 5 October

The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology wrote on Twitter: "The choice of plant for each species was important because we wanted to represent the diversity & context of the flowers visited by insects - from crop & garden plants to wild flowers."  See their press release here.


The stamps in detail

The set consists of three se-tenant pairs including a pair of 1st class, and two pairs at the new airmail rates of £1.45 and £1.70.

Details of actual stamps (corrected: Painted Lady & Marmalade Hoverfly, which designs were switched by RM from the description they provided.)

1st Class Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)
This relatively widespread bumblebee feeds on flowers such as large blue pea.

1st Class Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui )
Thistles are a common source of nectar for these migratory butterflies in Britain.

£1.45 Longhorn beetle (Rutpela maculata)
This wasp-mimicking beetle is a common visitor of hawthorn flowers in summer.

£1.45 Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)
Honeysuckle is a favoured source of nectar for this striking species. Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)

£1.70 Marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
Often seen in gardens, this is also an important pollinator of crops like oilseed rape.

£1.70 Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita agg.)
The adult ruby-tailed wasp feeds on nectar from flowers such as angelica.

Technical details

The 37 x 35 mm stamps were designed in-house using illustrations by Richard Lewington (who was involved with previous similar wildlife issues in 2013 and 2015) and printed by International Security Printers in lithography.  Although our briefing notes were a bit short on detail, the FDC insert fills the gaps (so to speak): perforations are 14x14½ and in sheets of 30/60.  (See below for more details.)

Products available

Set of stamps, stamp cards, presentation pack, first day cover, and framed stamp set, also available in an edition of 100 signed by the illustrator.


  1. I thought the stamp set is all about bugs, well we have a butterfly, bee and the wasp was covered, plus we already had a set on butterflies and bees, they really didn't think hard about the subject in hand, bugs are literally flying insects. A stamp set on Moths would have been a better theme.

  2. You have coppied same mistake as post office the 1st class stamp and description don't match ie
    £1.70 Painted lady butterfly and 1st Class Marmalade hoverfly

  3. Didnt we have a bug one a couple of years ago.....I think I still have £1.25 of it.

    Yes, it's important to recognise wildlife big and small, but twice in 2 or 3 years??
    Surely there could have been another group of animals memorialised. After all we had Fish, Birds, Bugs, how about native land animals???

  4. What a load off nonsense. Is there anyone at Royal Mail who realises that by your Blog illustrating the stamps (which are easily visible on their own site) that they are getting the best free publicity possible for the issue. It is stamp collectors who are most likely to buy this issue and who reads your Blog? Oh yes, genuine stamp collectors. Does anyone involved in marketing stamps at Royal Mail, doubtless extremely well paid, have any understanding of how to sell their products to the people who want them? It has been obvious for a very long time that they haven’t got a clue. Keep up the good work Ian!


Thank you for reading the blog and commenting: please use an identity (name or pseudonym) rather than being Anonymous; it helps us to know which 'anonymous' comments are from the same person to avoid confusion. Comments are moderated to avoid spam, but will be published as soon as possible.