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.

Are You a Fantastic Fly Finder?

Take part in this exciting ecology project and become a fabulous Fly Finder! Scientists are trying to understand how humans are changing mountain lakes. Insects that live near water are a crucial food source for birds, frogs, and bats. Climate change and predators introduced by humans may be affecting these important species. 

Scientists have caught insects in traps and need your help to count the different types. In this citizen-science project from Zooniverse, you will be shown a picture of some flies. The insects you’ll see were hatched in lakes high above sea level in California, where they feed and grow until they’re ready to emerge as flying adults. These adults are often eaten by animals like birds. This makes them a perfect ‘pipeline’, delivering nutrients and energy from the aquatic environment of the lake to the terrestrial environment surrounding it! Your effort on this project will help scientists understand what changes threaten this connection, and what we can expect in years to come.

Start by following this link to Fly Finder. Click on ‘Identify insects’ to start. You can click on ‘Learn more’ first if you want to find out more about the project.

Sample of flies from Fly Finder

You will see an image of a sticky white card that has been used to catch flies. Looking at the image, you first have to decide what types of fly you can see. That might sound tricky, but there is an on-screen field guide to help you and most of the time you just need to decide whether it’s a ‘small fly’ or a ‘medium fly’. One you have decided, you just select the correct category from the list by clicking on it, then move your mouse (or your finger on a tablet) and click (or tap) on the fly. This will mark it for the researchers.

Screenshot from Fly Finder. This sample has a lot of flies!

Some of the images show several flies, others show quite a lot and a few will have none at all. You can do as few or as many pictures as you like. Lots of people doing a little each soon creates a lot of results for the scientists. This shows them which types of insect, and how many, are found in the different places where the traps were set.

If you enjoyed Fly finder, or your like the idea of taking part in other projects, why not have a look at our Make and Do page?

Pictures from our ‘Big Draw’ Event

During the October half-term school break a group of aspiring young artists gathered in the Westwood Room for our latest Crunchy on the outside event. We have now put some images from the event on our Photo Gallery for you to enjoy.

During the event, we all had a go at cartooning with Chris (you can have a go too, with this minotaur beetle video), biological drawing with Rodger, and our own art using a range of media. Danielle and Matt also showed us some artistic treasures from the Museum archives.

If you attended, took a drawing home to finish and would like us to include it, please email it to hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk.

Of course we’re always interested in seeing artwork and photos of insects by any of our followers. send them in using the same address and we’ll add them to our gallery too!

Say Hello at Harcourt Arboretum

Come and see us at Harcourt Arboretum on Monday 24 October. The HOPE For the Future stand will feature lots of insect specimens and our ‘To Bee or not to Bee’ challenge.

We will be joining our friends at the Arboretum to support The Wonderful World of Insects, an interactive family show from WhatNot theatre company that explores themes of biodiversity, the importance of insects and their declining populations, and the connections between plant life and insects.

The show will run at 12.30pm or 2.30pm encourages us all to learn to love, respect and care for our six-legged friends. It is included with entry to the Arboretum but registration is required. Please book your day ticket as normal (not needed for annual pass holders or Friends) and then reserve your space for either show here. (Note: this is a link to an event booking site)

You don’t need to register for the Hope For the Future stand – just pop along and see us during your visit to the Arboretum! We will be there from 12pm to 3.30pm.

Still time to book for The Big Draw: Insects! on 26 October

We still have a few places left for The Big Draw: Insects! at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford. Aimed at 10-14 year olds, this is your chance to try out different styles of drawing, see amazing art from the Collections, and be one of the first visitors to enter the newly-refurbished Westwood Room. Please use the Contact Us page or email us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk to book a place.

Beetle biscuits

Enjoy biscuits? Like beetles? Then you’ll love our iced beetle biscuits! We have designed ours to look like ladybirds, but you can decorate yours in any way you like. If you haven’t got time to bake the biscuits you could buy some and decorate them.

You will need:

  • Round biscuit cutter
  • Baking tray – lightly greased or with baking paper
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Wooden spoon
  • teaspoon
  • A work surface sprinkled with flour
  • A wire rack to cool the biscuits
  • Oven pre-heated to 190oC (170oC if its a fan oven)
  • Oven gloves
  • A grown-up assistant

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter – take it out of the fridge to soften it
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • 3 drops of vanilla extract

To make the icing:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (use water if you haven’t got juice)
  • Food colouring – colours of your choice

How to make the biscuits:

  1. Wash your hands. Make sure your assistant washes theirs too.
  2. Lightly grease the baking tray.
  3. In the mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Keep going until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the sugar, beaten egg, milk and vanilla extract.
  5. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. You can use the spoon to start but as the dough forms you will probably find it easier to use your hands to shape it into a ball.
  6. Using the rolling pin, roll out the dough on the floured work surface until it is spread out in a thin layer.
  7. Cut out biscuit shapes from the dough and put them on the baking tray.
  8. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Ask your assistant to take them out when they are golden brown.
  9. Cool the biscuits on the wire rack. watch that your assistant doesn’t try to snaffle the warm biscuits!

How to make the icing:

While the biscuits are cooling, mix the icing ingredients. The icing needs to be liquid but not so runny that it runs off the biscuit when you put it on. If it’s too runny, add a bit more icing sugar. If its too stiff, add a drop of water. Divide your icing between bowls, one for each colour you are using. For the biscuits in the picture, we used red and violet and also kept some white icing. Add a drop of food colour to each bowl and mix it in. When the biscuits are cool, use the teaspoon to spoon a little icing onto each biscuit, then smooth it on with the back of the spoon. You can use a cocktail stick to spread out small amounts of icing.

Top tip: if you have a piping bag, you can stop the colours mixing into each other, pipe the outline of the parts of your beetle, let that icing dry, then fill in with more liquid icing.

We hope you enjoy your biscuits! Why not send us a picture of your design for our Photo Gallery?

The Big Draw: Insects!

Our next event for young entomologists, aged 10-14, will be ‘The Big Draw: Insects!‘ on Wednesday 26 October 2022, 10.30am – 12pm at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford.

Timed to coincide with the half-term break for local schools and to link in with other ‘Big Draw’ events in October, The Big Draw: Insects! is your chance to try your hand at drawing insects in three different styles: artistic, scientific and cartooning.

We’ll be based in the newly-refurbished Westwood Room at the museum and will be drawing a range of exciting insects from the museum’s collections. This event is suitable for all abilities from beginners to those who already enjoy drawing frequently.

The Big Draw: Insects! is free but you need to book in advance by emailing us at hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk

If you’re interested in cartooning, you might be interested in this post by Chris Jarvis on Drawing a Minotaur Beetle.