Help Save Bees With The Big Bee Bonanza!

Measure beautiful bees from around the world to help biologists understand why bee species are declining.

The Big Bee Bonanza is a new citizen science project investigating the size of bees held in university and museum collections. Scientists want you to help measure bees using a simple online tool which will add your data to the project. The results will be useful both to bee conservation biologists and everyone interested in nature. Researchers will use these data to help understand why bees are declining. You get to see beautiful bees from around the world and help us save the bees at the same time!

You can join in by following this link: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/md68135/notes-from-nature-big-bee-bonanza/classify

Once you are on the site, we think it’s a good idea to watch the tutorial video first. You can do this by clicking on the ‘Field Guide’ tab (shown above). A video will then slide out from the left of the screen. When you are happy you know what to do, click the ‘Field Guide’ tab again to close the video. You can start measuring bees.

There are two steps. First measure part of the scale bar, to tell the computer the size of the image, then measure the distance between the tegulae at the base of the bee’s wings. Tegulae are structures that protect the wing where it joins onto the body.

We hope you have fun measuring bees. You can measure as few or as many as you like; it all provides useful data for bee researchers. If you’re interested in bees, you might want to take a look at our post on queen bees.

Entohunt: Investigating insect biodiversity

Honey bee feeding on nectar

Our next event for young entomologists, aged 10-14, will be ‘Entohunt’ on 31 August 2022, 10am – 12pm at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford.

Entohunt is your chance to take a closer look at the wonderful world of insects on our doorstep. We’ll start by making pooters in the museum and then, weather permitting, test them out in University Parks and see what insects we can find. There will also be a chance to try out other entomological collection methods.

This event is free but booking is essential. Email us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk to book a place.

Ladybird origami

Ladybirds are beetles from the family Coccinellidae. There are over 45 different species found in the UK. Some of these will very familiar to many people, with their bright colours and red or black spots. Other species, known as inconspicuous ladybirds, have more drab and muted colouring. In the video below you can learn how to make your own origami ladybird. Origami is the art of folding paper into shapes and decorations, that originated in Japan. All you need to make this origami ladybird is a square piece of paper (ideally black, yellow, red or orange), a black colouring pen, a white piece of chalk and a spare few minutes:

As you can see, I tried decorating my origami to look like ladybird species that we would find here in the UK. If you want to do the same there are some helpful ID guides by the Woodland Trust and the UK Ladybird Survey. Show us pictures of your Origami Ladybirds either in the comments below or email them to us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk.

Make your own flying insect!

We’re all impressed by insect aerobatics and now you can make your own flying insect model. Here’s how to make a model glider: choose from butterfly or dragonfly, or maybe make both!

What you will need

  • thin card
  • scissors
  • glue stick or paper glue
  • colouring pens or pencils
  • plasticine or blu-tak
  • a print-out of this insect glider template:

How to make your glider

  1. First download and print out the insect template sheet. If you can print onto card, you can skip step 2. If you don’t have a printer you could trace the outline of one of the insects from the screen.
  1. Choose an insect picture and stick it onto a piece of thin card. The type that cereal boxes are made out of will work well.
  1. Colour in your insect. You could make it look like a real species of butterfly or dragonfly, or you could let your imagination run wild!
  1. Cut round the outline of your insect.
  1. Cut out the grip from the paper template. This is the bit you hold when you throw your glider. Fold it and stick it to the underside of your insect as shown.
  1. Lastly, you will need to weight your insect so it flies properly. If you’re making the dragonfly, put a blob of plascicine or blu-tak at the front. For the butterfly, it will fly better if you put a blob at the front tip of each wing. You might need to experiment a bit to find out how much weight you need to add for the best flight.

Your insect glider should now be ready to go! Have fun flying it. You might want to see how far it can go, how long it can stay in the air, or which of the two models flies best. We’d love to hear how you get on and see your insect designs. You can get in touch using the Contact Us page.

If you enjoyed this make, why not try out some of the others on the Make & Do page?

Make Your Own Pooter

A pooter is a great device for catching small insects. It’s easy to make your own at home.

An assembled pooter

What you will need:

  • A transparent plastic food container with a lid.
  • Two drinking straws or 30cm of plastic tubing.
  • Plasticine or Blu-Tac
  • An elastic band
  • A piece of cloth
  • Scissors
  • A grown-up

How to make your pooter

  1. Make the tubes.

You can use two drinking straws. Ones with bendy ends work best. Even better is plastic tubing because it is bendier than a straw and less likely to get crushed. Car parts shops sell it as ‘washer tube’. Whatever you use, make sure it is clean.

Washer tube from a car parts store is ideal for a pooter

Using the scissors, cut two lengths of tubing, one about 10cm long, the other about 20cm long. If you’re using straws, cut one of them to about 10cm (including the bendy bit, if there is one). Leave the other straw as it is.

  1. Make two holes in the lid.
Use scissors to make holes in the lid.

Start with a clean used transparent food container. The ones that shops use for houmous, dips, etc. work well. Place the lid of the food container on a flat surface. Put something underneath it like a cutting board or thick piece of cardboard underneath to protect the surface you are working on. Here is where you may need a grown-up to help: using the sharp point of a scissor, make two holes on the lid. They should be about 2cm from the edge of the lid and least 3cm apart. Use the scissor blade in a circular motion to gradually make one of the holes large enough until the tube (or straw) is a snug fit through it. Be careful not to make it too big. Repeat for the other hole.

  1. Fix the tubes in the lid.

Push the short tube (or the cut straw) about 2cm into the lid. Use the plasticine or Blu-Tak to seal the hole round the tube, both inside and out.

Seal round the tube with Blu-Tak or Plasticine

Push the long tube (or uncut straw) about 2cm into the other hole and seal this one in the same way. If you are using a bendy straw the short end should go inside the pooter.

  1. Add the filter.
Add the filter to the tube you will such through.

The filter goes on the short tube (or cut straw) and will stop you accidentally sucking up insects into your mouth! You can use a piece of thin cloth, old tights, or even paper tissue. Make sure it’s clean. Use the elastic band to fix the filter on to the end of the short tube that goes inside the pooter.

  1. Test it!

Put the lid into the food container. Now test your pooter to check that it is sealed properly by trying to suck up something small like a grain of rice or a tiny piece of paper. Point the end of the long tube close to your object and suck through the short tube. A short sharp suck of breath will work better that a long indrawn breath. If it doesn’t work well, check the seals aren’t letting in any air.

A finished pooter.

Using your pooter

Your pooter is now ready to go!

Have fun collecting insects and watching them inside the pooter. Look for insects on the leaves and stems of plants. Don’t forget to check the underside of leaves. When you have found something interesting, and smaller than the width of the tube, point the end of the long tube at it, as close as you can get. Then quickly suck on the short tube. The insect should be sucked up into the pot where you can look at it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work first time, most people need a bit of practice at pooting!

Don’t leave your insects inside the pooter for more than a few minutes. Make sure to let them go where you found them. Don’t forget to send us your pictures – we’ll put them in the Gallery.

You can find more great makes in our Make and Do section.

Insect Friendly Gardens

I often hear people say that it is important to make green spaces “Insect Friendly”, but what is meant by this?

It is providing and encouraging a variety of different habitats that provide food and shelter for a range of different insects, and avoiding things that would do harm to insects, like using pesticides.

The focus is often on bees and butterflies, and their importance as pollinators. However, not only are other insects important pollinators, but insects have other vital roles in nature, including as food sources for many other animals and as recyclers of natural materials (dead plants, dead animals and poo).

Here are some ideas of positive things you can do to make a garden insect friendly:

Plant a range of trees, shrubs and plants that flower at different times of year

These will provide for insects all the year round. You can find some insect friendly planting guides on the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) website.

Create a dead wood habitat

Many insects, including a number of beetle species, like the cold damp conditions in a dead wood habitat and even eat the dead and decaying wood. Three ways to create one is set out by Gardener’s World.

Have a compost heap

As well being a means of recycling vegetable and garden waste, compost heaps also provide food and shelter for decomposers, many of which are insects. If you would like more information and advice about composting the RHS has an online guide.

Leave an area to grow wild

Areas of long grass are good for certain insects, e.g. for skipper butterflies to lay their eggs. Not mowing as often allows wildflowers, like daisy and buttercups to bloom. These, along with other plants often considered weeds, such as nettles, provide important food sources for insects.

Make an insect hotel

Insect hotels provide hiding places for insects to shelter. We have instructions for making a simple insect hotel on the museum website. If you want to find out more about making a more involved hotel, the RSPB have a guide on their website.

Have you made your garden more insect friendly using these, or any other methods? Tell us about what you have done in the comments below, or via the contact us page.

All photographs © Susie Glover. All rights reserved