Join us at the Museum this half term for some fabulous, free insect fun. We have a Science Show for you on Tuesday 26th October, and drop in activities on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th October. Read on to find out more!
Insects: Bestie or Beastie? A Family Science Show
Join us for our brand new, interactive family Science Show on Tuesday 26th October at 2pm or 3.30pm. Find out what happens when an insect-phobic visitor to the museum meets a giant talking dung beetle! It promises to be a lot of fun! Tickets to the show are completely FREE but you do need to book.
Drop in on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th October, 1pm – 4pm, for some insect fun in the museum main court with an afternoon of insect crafts, plus getting up close and personal with some fabulous insect specimens. No need to book; just drop-in!
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.
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.
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.
One of the highlights of the HOPE year is the summer school which gives young people a unique insight into both the fascinating world of insects and the equally-intriguing behind-the-scenes work at the museum.
We had to make our summer school virtual in 2020, so we were really pleased to be able to run it at the Museum this year. The wonderful group of enthusiastic young people who joined us spent a week in August exploring the British Insect Collection and the work of entomologists, developing their skills and doing their own research.
Insight into the Museum
Monday started with an introduction to the world of insects and the ‘Big 5’ British orders, a tour of the entomology department with Collections Manager Dr James Hogan, and some live insect handling. The young entomologists then put their identification skills to the test with some insect hunting with Collections Assistant Louis Lofthouse in the University Parks.
On Tuesday we were joined by wildlife photographer Kirk Mason who showed us techniques to develop our insect photography skills at the Botanic Gardens. The fabulous Merton borders and a sunny day meant there was no shortage of subjects! Look out for a future post showcasing the fantastic images the young people took.
On Wednesday and Thursday the summer school moved to Harcourt Arboretum where the group learned about practical insect collection techniques with Collections Assistant Ryan Mitchell. They then devised and carried out their own investigations over the two days, joined by Senior Collections Manager Darren Mann on Thursday. We also set up a light trap on Wednesday afternoon, opening it the next morning to reveal the selection of moths that had settled inside, including the Black Arches, Lymantria monacha, pictured above.
On final day of the summer school, Steven Williams from the HOPE team led the group through pinning preserved insect specimens for themselves. We finished with a celebratory showcase event where our young entomology team shared all that they had done over the week with families and friends.
And there’s more…
Some of our summer school participants were inspired to write their own articles for the blog. Here is Ben’s post, Raising Moths, and we will be publishing more soon. If you’re feeling inspired, why not get in touch using the Contact Us page? Keep an eye on the blog for news of future events at the Museum from the HOPE for the Future Team.
We are open! After months of being closed due to the pandemic, Oxford’s Museum of Natural History finally reopened in May, and we are absolutely loving the fact that the museum is once again full of life, laughter and learning.
If you live near Oxford, or are planning a trip to this part of the world, remember to visit us this Summer. We would love to see you! We have over 7 million historical and modern specimens, of which around 5 million are insects. So, if you are interested in insects then this is the place to come!
This post was first written in June 2021. The summer school is now full and booking has closed. You can find lots of insect activities on the Museum of Natural History webpages for our 2020 virtual Six Legs of Summer summer school.
We are very excited to announce that we will be running an Insect Investigators summer school at the Museum of Natural History during the week 2 – 6 August 2021.
The summer school will be for 10-14 year olds and is free of charge, thanks to generous funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Those taking part will gain a behind the scenes insight into the British Insect Collection and the work of museum, photograph insects at the Botanic Gardens with a wildlife photographer, learn how entomologists collect and study insects with practical sessions at Harcourt Arboretum, and carry out their own insect investigation. Perhaps you’ll even have an insect added to the collection!
If you would like to know more, or want to book a place, please get in touch using the Contact Us page, or email Rodger, Susie and Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!
As part of the HOPE project, Kate, Rodger and I take insect specimens from the collection out to schools. Two questions I have been asked a number of times are:
Are they real?
Why did you kill them?
The answer to the first question is fairly simple. Yes! They are real insects that were once alive, but are now dead and have been carefully preserved. The answer to the second question is a little more complicated. The British Insect Collection, at Oxford University Museum of Natural History, consists of over 1 million specimens, collected over a period of about 200 years. I think the real questions are why do we keep this vast assortment of insects and what are they used for?
When investigating insects, it often is not possible to identify them out in the field, or from photographs. Some insects need to be looked at under a microscope, or even dissected, to tell them apart and identify them to species level. Also, just think how small some insects are, it could be very easy to miss them altogether. As a result, entomologists sometimes use insect collecting methods that involve killing the insects, and taking them back to their labs for identification.
The collection is also used to help with identification. If an entomologist comes across an insect species they have not seen before, or are struggling to identify, they can compare it with those already in the collection. Getting a correct identification is really important. It helps entomologists know if they are talking about the same insect.
In the collection each specimen has a label which gives key information regarding where, when and by whom it was found. The collection contains specimens for almost the entire history of British entomology, giving us information on the biodiversity of Britain, during this time. From this we can see how insect populations have changed, for example how the numbers of the different forms of the Peppered moth (Biston betularia) varied during and after the Industrial Revolution. Scientists from all over the world regularly use and reference the British Insect Collection as part of their research.
The collection offers an amazing glimpse into the natural world with dozens of iconic species now considered extinct in the UK, including the large copper butterfly and the blue stag beetle. It also contains many examples of the first British capture of insect species.
We use the collection to help people to learn about the wonders and importance of insects in our world. While it is very valuable for people to see living insects in their natural environment, they often move around very fast. It is much easier to use specimens from the collection to look at and understand the features of different insects.
In my experience of taking specimens into schools, seeing these insects up close in this way not only inspires a sense of wonder, interest and excitement, but also allows those who are more nervous of these little critters to gain confidence as well as understanding.