Insects up close

On the first floor of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, at one end of the insect gallery, by the café, is an interactive screen. This displays one of my favourite parts of the insect gallery. The wonderful world of Microsculpture. This was originally an exhibition in the museum, Microsculpture: The Insect Photography of Levon Biss, which was open in 2016. You can still see the remarkable images from the exhibition on the screen in the gallery.

Interactive Microsculpture screen in the insect gallery

Microsculpture shows insect specimens from the Museum’s collection from a new angle. Photographer Levon Biss took a series of beautifully-lit, high magnification pictures showing striking high-resolution detail. Seeing the insects so close up lets you see colours and patterns that are difficult to see with the naked eye, particularly with very small insects. Seeing this detail makes me realise how beautiful they truly are. What do you think?

Tricolored Jewel Beetle (Belionota sumptuosa), collected by Alfred Russel Wallace in Seram Island, Indonesia. Length: 25 mm Image: Levon Bliss

Here is a video showing how the Microsculpture exhibition came about:

You can even enjoy the pictures from your home on the Microsculpture website.

Which is your favourite? Let us know by emailing us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk or using the Contact Us form.

Ashleigh Whiffin

Ashleigh Whiffin tells us about her work as Assistant Curator of Entomology at National Museums Scotland, as well as the slightly unusual way she first became interested in insects, leading to her pursuing a career in entomology.

Ashleigh mentions finding out that carrion insects can help solve crimes. How cool is that? Can you think of any other ways that insects help us? Let us know in the Contact us section of the blog.

Insects: bestie or beastie?

What happens when a visitor to the museum, with a certain dislike of insects, meets an accommodating, and rather chatty, giant talking dung beetle?

Find out in the new, interactive family show at the museum , that is all about insects.

Stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) ©OUMNH


The unlikely pair take a journey, looking at the wonderful, and vitally important, role of insects in our world. From their position as pollinators, to their function in food chains; from the waste they recycle, to the many hours of joy and entertainment they bring as the heroes, and villains, of so many films, TV shows and books.


Come and see the show to find out how and why they are at risk, and what we can all do to help.

Insect Industry © Chris Jarvis


There will be two showings of “Insects: Beasties or Besties?” on Tuesday 26th October at 2pm and 3:30pm. Although the show is free of charge booking is essential. Tickets will be available to book soon. Keep an eye out for them on our What’s on page.

Lily Beetle

Despite being viewed as a pest by many a gardener, for munching the leaves of their prized lilies, the lily beetle (Lilioceris Lilii) is a favourite insect of Andrew Salisbury, principal entomologist for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). In this short film Andrew tells us a bit about the lily beetle and why he finds it so fascinating.

Are there any insects that are often considered pests that you have a particular interest in? Let us know in the comments below or via our contact us page.

Make a butterfly feeder

In the last post Kate told us all about her favourite butterfly. In this post I will be showing you how to make your own butterfly feeder, from items you might commonly have at home, to help attract butterflies, and other insects, to your outside space. I had to raid my recycling bin for key materials.

Here are the same instructions on how to make a butterfly feeder, as can be seen in the video:

What you will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Coloured pens or paints
  • String or wool
  • Glue or sticky tape
  • Scissors
  • Bottle top
  • Hole Punch
  1. Take a piece of cardboard and draw a flower with five petals, roughly 20cm wide.
  2. Decorate your flower in any way you wish.
  3. Cut out your flower.
  4. Fix the bottle top to the middle of your flower using glue or sticky tape.
  5. Use a hole punch to make a hole at the edge of each petal of your flower.
  6. Cut five pieces of string or wool, each roughly 40cm long.
  7. Tie the five pieces of string together at one end.
  8. Turn your flower over and thread a piece of string through each hole, and tie the five pieces of string together.
  9. Tie an additional piece of string, or wool, to the knot.
  10. Hang your butterfly feeder in a sunny, but sheltered, spot outside.
  11. Mix together sugar and water, or take a small piece of overripe fruit (e.g. orange or banana), and put it in the bottle lid.

Watch to see any butterflies, or other insects, that visit your feeder. You could investigate which foods different species prefer.

Please tell us about your butterfly feeders and investigations. We would love to see photos of them. Contact us or email at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk.

Dr Andrew Salisbury

Dr Andrew Salisbury tells us a bit about his work at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the world’s leading gardening charity. He also shares how he first became interested in insects, as a child.

He mentions a particular memory of an encounter with a Brown-tail moth caterpillar. Do you have any specific memories of insect encounters? Tell us about them in the comments below.