Book your place at our FREE Event this Easter!

Are you aged 10 – 14? Then join us for a FREE Crunchy on the Outside event here at the museum this Easter.

A Game of Life Cycles – Tuesday 12th April 2022, 1 – 3pm

Discover more about the stages of insect life cycles, then make and play your own insect-themed board game.  Can your insect make it through all the stages of metamorphosis to become an adult? Can they overcome the challenges along the way and lay eggs to make the next generation?

Here are all the details you need:

WHAT:              FREE workshop – A Game of Life Cycles

WHEN:             Tuesday 12th April 2022 , 1pm to 3pm

WHERE:           Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

WHO:               10 to 14 year olds

To book – email: hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk

Insect Fun in the Museum – Saturday 12th March

Super Science Saturday: Fantastic Minibeasts

OUMNH Super Science Saturday by IWPhotographic

Drop in to the museum for this fun family Science Fair on Saturday 12th March, 12-4pm. Meet experts to find out more about tiny creatures like insects, spiders and more!

No need to book – just come along and, whilst you are in the museum, why not join us for our Insect Show: Insects: Beasties or Besties.

Insects: Beasties or Besties Family Science Show

Saturday 12th March, 1pm and 2.30pm

Ages 6+

Come along to our fun and interactive family show all about insects. You’ll meet a visitor to the museum, with a dislike of insects, who is confronted by a giant talking dung beetle! The unlikely pair take a journey, looking at the wonderful, and vitally important, role of insects in our world.

Please note that the show will be held in the Museum’s Lecture Theatre which has a capacity of 195 seats and social distancing will not be in place. Visitors are encouraged to wear a face mask for the duration of the show and hand sanitiser will be available when you enter/exit. 

The show is FREE but please book online.

Bee-flies: A sign of Spring

At this time of year, after the long winter months, we are all looking for signs of Spring.   One thing that entomologists look forward to is the first sightings of bee-flies.   These very cute, furry flies start to emerge in late February and early March.

Bombylius major, the dark-edged bee-fly, is one of Erica McAlister’s favourite British insects and she tells us why in this video.

Find out more about Bee-flies

To find out more about bee-flies, check out this page on the Dipterists Forum. There is also an excellent guide to bee-fly identification which you can find here.

In addition, the Dipterists Forum run an annual Bee-fly Watch which gathers together records of sightings.  This is really important for monitoring changes in distribution and flight period.  You can contribute to this important science project by adding your sightings here:

Bee-fly Watch | Soldierflies and Allies Recording Scheme (brc.ac.uk)

Have you seen any bee-flies yet this Spring? Let us know, too, by telling us below or by using the Contact Us page.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14th is St Valentine’s Day, traditionally a day to celebrate love!   To mark this special day, we thought it would be fun to look at love in the insect world. Of course, insects don’t go on dates but how do they go about securing a mate?  There is a dazzling array of ways in which insects have evolved to attract a mate, as well as some bizarre mating behaviours; some rather romantic and some definitely not!

Tokens of Love!

The Empididae family of flies, also known as dagger flies because of their piercing mouthparts, include some species where the male fly will tempt females into mating by offering them a so-called nuptial gift.  This gift is not a lovely box of chocolates or a dozen red roses, but a juicy item of prey carefully wrapped in silk.  The male gives this nuptial gift to the female who catches his eye.  Females of some species have evolved special features to attract males, such as feathery scales on their legs or inflatable abdominal sacs.  Entomologists have even discovered that there is a relationship between the size of the gift given and the time that the females will spend mating.  So the bigger the gift, the more likely the mating is to be successful. 

© Lennart Tange, CC BY-NC 2.0

Off with his head!

Rather less romantic, is the alarming mating behaviour of the praying mantis. With more than 2,400 known species ranging from 1cm to 18cm in size, praying mantises (Order: Mantodea) are a diverse group of insects found in many different habitats.  Most are found in warmer regions, particularly in tropical and subtropical climates, although they can also be found in some areas of Southern Europe. 

© CatDancing, CC BY-NC 2.0

Highly-skilled hunters, praying mantises eat insects and other small invertebrates such as spiders, but larger species have also been known to eat mice, small amphibians, snakes, and even birds and bats!  When it comes to mating, the male takes his life in his hands! Hungry females, who will soon need to lay eggs, need all the food they can get and if the male isn’t very careful, he can find himself turned into a meal as the female munches into his head whilst they mate. Read this article and watch this video if you dare!

Deadly Praying Mantis Love

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!  Do you know any other examples of bizarre or interesting insect behaviour that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments, or by using the Contact Us page

Book your place at our FREE Event this half term!

Are you aged 10 – 14? Then join us for a FREE Crunchy on the Outside event here at the museum this half term.

Insects Under the Lens

Wednesday 23rd February 2022, 1 – 3pm

Take a closer look at some of the museum’s 5 million insect specimens under a variety of different lenses. We will be using microscopes and digital photography to reveal beautiful details of insect anatomy not visible to the naked eye.  This workshop promises to unlock some of the secrets of the insect world and develop your powers of observation!

Here are all the details you need:

WHAT: FREE workshop – Insects Under the Lens 

WHEN: Wednesday 23rd February 2022 , 1pm to 3pm

WHERE: Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

WHO: 10 to 14 year olds

To book, email: hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk

Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente

Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, Deputy Head of Research here at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, tells us how he first became interested in natural history. Hear about his work as a palaeoentomologist specialising in the study of insects fossilised in amber, including the discovery of a fascinating lacewing species from around 100 million years ago with an ingenious method of camouflage and defence.

Ricardo’s research into the fossilised lacewing species, Hallucinochrysa diogenesi, has shown that the strategy of covering the body with materials from the environment as a way to camouflage and defend, known as trash-carrying, evolved at least 100 million years ago. Several species of invertebrates use this strategy today, including green lacewing larvae, and some sea urchin and crab species. Can you think of other ways in which insects defend themselves from their prey? Let us know in the comments below or in the Contact Us section of the blog.