Bees, Riddles and a Talking Dung Beetle

We had a very busy half term week here at the museum. You could say it was buzzing!  It was great to meet so many young people interested in entomology and all things invertebrate! If you weren’t able to join us, here is a taste of what we had on offer.

Insects: Beastie or Bestie?

Our new family Science Show:  Insects: Beastie or Bestie? played to a packed house on Tuesday 26th October.  Staff from the museum showed off their acting skills as they took on the roles of a large, chatty dung beetle and an insect-phobic visitor to the museum.

Helped by members of the audience, the unlikely pair looked 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, all bases were covered! The audience went away with a greater understanding of why insects are vital to our existence and what we can all do to help safeguard their future.

Bees and Riddles

As well as enjoying the show, the Crunchy on the Outside team were also in the museum with some challenging insect activities for our young entomologist friends to try. 

In our To Bee or Not to Bee activity, we had 10 beautiful specimens for people to view: 5 bees, 4 flies and 1 moth, but could our visitors tell which was which?  Some clues in the entomology gallery helped identify these tricky mimics.

Have a look at these two specimens.  Which one is a bee?  What type of insect is the other one? 

Let us know what you think using CONTACT US or leave a comment below.

We also had a super tricky quiz with answers to be found in our entomology gallery.  This included some really challenging insect riddles (courtesy of Susie!).  Here is one of the riddles.  Which insect do you think this might be? 

For buzzing insects in your garden, consider what to grow.

Lavender and foxglove seeds are the ones to sow.

When looking for a home, and deciding what is best

This solitary bee makes an old snail shell its nest.

Lavender. Image credit: Thowra uk CC BY 2.0; Snail Shell. Image credit: Aesop CC BY-SA 2.0

Send your answers to us using CONTACT US or leave a comment below.

We will be hosting more Crunchy on the Outside events in the future.  Remember to check back regularly to be the first to find out about them. 

FREE Insect fun at the Museum this half term

Don’t forget to 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.

Book tickets for Tuesday 26th October, 2pm

Book tickets for Tuesday 26th October, 3.30pm

Take the Crunchy on the Outside Challenge!

On Tuesday 26th October, 1-4pm, Susie and Kate will be in the Museum main court with some fiendish insect challenges for you. Drop by and see if you can solve the puzzles with your insect intellect (no booking needed)!

Flower Power Drop-in Activities

Drop in on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th October, 1pm – 4pm, for an afternoon of insect crafts, plus getting up close and personal with some fabulous insect specimens.  No need to book; just drop-in! 

Susie and Kate look forward to seeing you there!

FREE Insect fun at the Museum this half term

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.

Book tickets for Tuesday 26th October, 2pm

Book tickets for Tuesday 26th October, 3.30pm

Flower Power Drop-in Activities

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! 

Susie and I look forward to seeing you there!

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.

A Sensational Summer School!

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.

Fantastic Photography

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.

Insect Investigations

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.

Showcase sharing

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.

a summer of insect activities

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!

Visiting the museum is FREE, but please book your tickets here Visit us | Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Why not try our Incredible Insects Trail?

Help yourself to a copy of this trail in the main museum court and journey round some of the highlights of our entomology collection. 

Take your completed trail to the front desk, mention that you heard about it here at crunchyontheoutside.com and you will receive a certificate and an Inspired by Insects badge. 

Remember to keep an eye on our website for information about other FREE Summer family activities in the museum. Events | Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Find us out and about in Oxfordshire

This Summer, we will also be out and about at the following events in Oxfordshire:

Out and About with Insects – Tuesday 17th August, 11am – 3pm, Princess Diana Park, Banbury

Finds us at Oxfordshire Play Association’s Play and Activity Day to learn more about insects and have a look at some of our magnificent specimens close up. Out and About with insects – Princess Diana Park, Banbury | Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Wychwood Forest Fair – Saturday 22nd August, 11am – 5pm, Foxburrow Wood, Witney

Come along and visit our stand where you will find a range of insect-related activities, including insect collecting using specialist equipment.  Find out more at: Wychwood Forest Fair | Wychwood Forest Trust

We would love to see you over the Summer, whether in the museum or out and about at an event. Have a fantastic Summer!