Squashed Fly Biscuits

Don’t worry dipterists, these delicious biscuits don’t actually have flies inside them! Also known as Garibaldi biscuits, the ‘flies’ are actually currants. Why not have a go at making them?

You will need:

  • Baking tray – lightly greased or with baking paper
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Wooden spoon
  • Teaspoon
  • Knife
  • Plate
  • A work surface sprinkled with flour
  • A wire rack to cool the biscuits
  • Oven pre-heated to 200oC (180oC if it’s a fan oven) / Gas mark 6
  • Oven gloves
  • A grown-up assistant

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
  • 100g currants
  • 75g lightly salted butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, mixed with 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 drops of vanilla extract
  • Beaten egg or milk to glaze

How to make the biscuits:

1 Wash your hands. Make sure your assistant washes theirs too.

2 In the mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Keep going until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

3 Add the sugar and milk.

4 Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a smooth dough.

4 Cover the bowl with a plate and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool.

5 While you are waiting, lightly grease the baking tray, or lay some baking paper on it, and lightly sprinkle flour on your work surface.

6 Pre-heat the oven to 200oC (180oC if it’s a fan oven) / Gas mark 6

7 Using the rolling pin, roll out the dough on the floured work surface until it is spread out into a 30cm square.

8 Cut the square of dough in half with a knife.

9 Scatter one half with the cinnamon & sugar mix and the currants. Save some of the cinnamon/sugar mix for the topping.

10 Put the other half on top, making a sandwich with the currants in the middle.

11 Roll the dough again until it’s about 5mm thick. You should see the currants showing through.

12 Carefully lift the dough onto the prepared baking tray. Ask your assistant to help you.

13 Trim the edges and use the knife to score the dough into 8cm x 4cm rectangles. Be careful not to cut right through.

14 Brush with egg or milk, then scatter the remaining cinnamon/sugar mix on top.

15 Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Ask your assistant to help, taking them out when they are golden.

16 Cool the biscuits on the wire rack and then break them into individual biscuits.

If you want to make the biscuits vegan, replace the butter with vegan block and the dairy milk with plant milk. Brush the biscuits with plant milk instead of egg wash.

We hope you enjoy eating and sharing your biscuits! If you liked this recipe, why not have a go at making our iced beetle biscuits?

This is the last post from Crunchy on the Outside because the HOPE for the future project has come to an end. We have really enjoyed sharing the amazing world of insects with you. The blog will stay online for the time being and you can check out all that’s happening at the Museum on our Main Website.

Make a model wasp

At or recent Wonderful Wasps! event, we learned what a diverse group of insects wasps are and how important they are to the environment. We finished by making marvellous model wasps. Here’s a template for making one of your own at home. Some parts of this ‘make’ are a little trick but we think the end result is well worth it!

What you will need

  • A print-out of the template. Ideally print the body parts on yellow card but paper will work too. Print the wings onto white paper
  • Five black or brown pipe cleaners
  • A piece of string, thread or wool
  • Scissors
  • A stapler

Making your wasp

1 Cut out the pieces.

2 Carefully make cuts in the card as shown by the dotted lines.

3 Arrange the thorax, abdomen and last segment pieces in a line. Staple a pipe cleaner to these pieces as shown in the pictures below.

4 Staple the wings onto the thorax.

5 Fold the last segment into a cone shape and secure with a staple.

6 Bend each abdominal section into a circle, slipping the slots together to secure it.

7 Bend the thorax into a circle, slipping the slots together to secure it.

8 Thread 3 pipe cleaners through the holes in the thorax to make 6 legs.

9 Bend the sides of the head together, slipping the slots together to secure it.

10 Staple the bottom edges of the head together

11 Staple the thorax end of the pipe cleaner onto the flap forming the top of the head. Push the end, attached to the tab into the slot.

12 Attach the eyes to the head by pushing the tabs into the slots.

13 Use the waist to connect thorax and abdomen by pushing the tabs into the slots.

14 Tie one end of a string to the pipe cleaner between the thorax and abdomen and the other end between the head and thorax.

Your wasp puppet is now ready!

We hope you enjoyed building your model wasp. When you have finished playing with it, you can use the pipe cleaners for another craft activity and recycle the rest of your model. If you enjoy craft, you might also like to try to try your hand at making an Origami Ladybird.

Your questions answered: ‘Which plants will help butterfly larvae?’

Brian contacted us recently with this question. He is planning a nature garden and wants to attract pollinating insects. That means attracting, not just the adults, but providing food for the larvae too.


The best advice is to to include a range of plants in your garden and to avoid using pesticides. This will attract a range of different insects to your garden. While many adult insects are generalists, feeding on a range of flowers, their larvae are often adapted to a specific species. An example is the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, Aglais urticae. While the adult butterflies feed on nectar from many different flowers, the caterpillars feed only on the common nettle. The problem is that many gardeners are happy to grow lots of pretty flowers but sometimes less keen to give space to ‘weeds’ like nettles.

Our friends at the Charity Butterfly Conservation have produced a great list of food plants, which you can find here: https://butterfly-conservation.org/sites/default/files/butterflyfoodplants.pdf

We hope that helps Brian and everyone else spending chilly winter days planning their garden. If you have made a garden to attract insects, we’d love to share photos in our Gallery.

Happy New Year! Here are the Christmas Quiz Answers

A very Happy New Year from the HOPE team at the Museum of Natural History. Here are the answers to our Crunchy on the outside Christmas Quiz which we posted on 21 December:

January: Bombus lapidarius

February: Amber

March: Erica McAlister

April: Game of Life Cycles

May: Sotiria Boutsi

June: A pooter

July: Vomit all over you!

August: Ladybirds

September: The Ivy Mining Bee, Colletes hederae

October: Harcourt Arboretum

November: Flies

December: Mistletoe

How many did you get right? Whatever your score, we hope you enjoyed our blog over the past year and we look forward to bringing you more news about amazing insects, the wonderful people who work with them, new things at the Museum, and fun things to make and do in 2023.

Crunchy Christmas Quiz 2022

This year, our Christmas quiz features 12 questions about the Crunchy on the Outside blog, one for each month of the past year. Don’t worry if you have only just started reading the blog because we’ve included a link to each of the articles. It’s just a bit of fun; we’ll post the answers in the New Year.

January: What is the scientific name of the red-tailed bumblebee found by Lincoln Kwong?

In February, researcher Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente told us about a substance that can preserve insects for millions of years. What is it?

Who did Kate interview for this post in March? They told us about their favourite insect, the Bee-fly.

In April, which Crunchy on the Outside event did we run at the Museum?

Which visiting researcher shared her fascination with fig wasps in this blog post from May ?

Which useful piece of collecting equipment did we show you how to make in June?

In July, Head of Life Collections Zoë Simmons showed us some Pleasing Fungus Beetles. What do they do if you annoy them?

Which type of beetle did Susie show us how to make from Origami in August?

In September, we wrote about a solitary bee that nests in burrows and loves to feed on ivy flowers. What is it called?

Where could you meet us among the trees for an autumn event in October?

In November, which type of insect did we ask you to help scientists count?

Which festive plant, which is a food source for many insects, featured in this December blog post?

If you enjoyed that, you might like to have a go at our ‘Answer Smash’ quiz from last Christmas.

Have a very happy holiday and remember, the Museum is closed 24-26 December.

Wonderful Wasps! FULLY BOOKED

Many people are wary of wasps, they like interrupting our picnics, they can look a bit fierce, and some have a sting in the tail, but it’s well worth getting to know this amazingly diverse group of insects. Our next Crunchy on the outside event for young people interested in nature, and insects in particular, is Wonderful Wasps! It’s at the Museum on Wednesday 28 December, 10.30-12.00pm.

We’ll be finding out about some amazing wasp species, looking at the Museum collections to see the fantastic range of different wasps in the UK, and making our own wasp models.

It’s free but booking is essential. To book a place please email hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk

We hope your New Year resolution will be to look after our wonderful wasps!

Take a look at our article on fig wasps here: Fabulous Fig Wasps.