The hostplant database - NHM reply

Gaden S. Robinson gsr at
Mon Nov 9 14:52:26 EST 1998

Dear Colleagues,

I have followed the past few days' exchanges on the subject of our
web-based hostplant database (
with some interest. The input form is tested regularly both from on-site
and remote locations - it has performed cleanly throughout. It should
provide a confirmatory message. So we are perplexed at reports of
malfunction. Please use the mail link to report problems if you encounter
them. It is very difficult to trace errors long after the event. As you
will have noticed, we have changed the URL and the server over the past
year and we know there was a period of about a week when the dreaded "404"
appeared with monotonous regularity. But attempts at input then would have
met with an error message.

During the past twelve months we have received just 47 records via the WWW
input form. These originated from the following e-mail addresses:

Andrea.Knebel at biologie.uni-bielefeld
Skarim at
cat460 at
hloechel at
jamyoung at
kelber at
kendrick at
leslieg at WAM.UMD.EDU
lsanidad2 at
mm_de at
mu at
niklas.wahlberg at
sagliocc at
tpittaway at
umhenned at

So Niklas and Miguel's submissions got through while Doug's and James's
apparently didn't.

You'll appreciate that with such a low traffic flow (and it was similar in
1997) it isn't worth our while to upload and edit and add the new records
more than once every six to twelve months. But I am sorry if you thought
your contributions were being neglected - they weren't, they are
appreciated, and the 1998 crop has just been harvested and will be added to
the site shortly.

The database is very much a demonstration model only, but it does provide
an outlet in the public domain as well as describe and "advertise" the much
larger HOSTS database project behind it. It is, as the initiator of the
correspondence said, very small with only 2500 records. But if it were very
much larger, the existing software would provide unmanageable output.

The good news is that we are looking at ways of putting the entire HOSTS
database on the Internet with a much more sophisticated and selective set
of search criteria. The base data set would utilise about 140,000 records
(about 60Mb of data) and the logistics are considerable, so please be
patient. There is an ongoing debate about the way in which this and other
databases can be presented without overwhelming the user, violating the
intellectual property rights of the data providers, or interfering with
ongoing research by making entire dataset compilations available prematurely.

In addition to the possibility of mounting HOSTS on the WWW we plan in the
very near future to produce the first two printed catalogues of Lepidoptera
hostplants from the database covering, respectively, North America and the
Oriental region.

So we are neither dead nor sleeping, but just letting the WWW database run
on while we concentrate on its monster successor.

Gaden Robinson

Gaden S. Robinson, DSc, Research Entomologist, Department of Entomology,
The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, LONDON SW7 5BD, UK
Tel: +44-(0)171-938-9494. Fax: +44-(0)171-938-8937.
INTERNET: gsr at
WWW: [and]
Research programs: Microlepidoptera systematics; hostplant database

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