Carrion Beetles

Carrion beetles are a family of beetles, Silphidae, that feed on decaying organic matter, such as dead animals. This makes them important natural recyclers.

Banded Burying Beetle © Ashleigh Whiffin

They are also Ashleigh Whiffin’s favourite group of insects. She tells us a bit about them in this video:

Ashleigh Whiffin, Assistant Curator of Entomology for National Museums Scotland, telling us about her favourite group of insects.

Do you know of any other insects that act as decomposers and natural recyclers? Tell us about them in the comments below or in the Contact us section of the blog.

Louis Lofthouse

Louis is a Collections Assistant, for the HOPE for the Future Project, at Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History. Here he is telling us about his role and how he first became interested in insects.

Louis mentions that through his job he gets to see rare and extinct insects that you normally might not get the chance to see. Can you tell us about any rare or extinct insects that you know about? Let us know in the comments below, or through the contact us page.

Make an Insect in Amber Decoration

Insects that have been trapped in amber (fossilised plant resin) can be preserved in amazing, stunning and beautiful detail. This short video shows you how to make a fossilised insect themed decoration that can be hung on your Christmas tree for the festive period, or can be displayed around you home all year round.

I have included the written instructions in case you find them helpful.

You will need:

  • A glue stick
  • Scissors
  • A Pencil
  • Card (e.g. cereal box)
  • Paper String/wool
  • Orange cellophane sweet wrapper(s)
  • Coloured pencils/pens/glitter

Instructions

  1. Take two pieces of card that are roughly the same size. Put them together with the plain sides facing out.
  2. On one side draw a frame, at least 1cm thick. It can be any shape you choose.
  3. Carefully cut out the frame, including the middle.
  4. Check that your cellophane wrapper will cover both frames. If not, use two.
  5. Use the glue stick to attached the cellophane to the patterned side of the frames.
  6. Trim the cellophane around the frames.
  7. Take a small piece of paper that will fit inside the frames and draw an insect on one side. Trim the excess paper around the insect and then draw a similar insect on the other side.
  8. Use the glue stick to attach the frames together with the insect in the middle, and with the wool/string forming a loop that you can use to hang your decoration.
  9. Decorate your frame using coloured pencils, pens, glitter or anything else that you choose.

We would love to see your amber decorations. Also, can any of you spot the key feature of an insect that I forgot to draw to my insect picture in the video? Let us know in the comments, or by the Contact us page.

To find out more about Insects in Amber look out for a post early next year.

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.