Wonderful Wasps!

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.

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!

Hayleigh Jutson

Hayleigh Jutson is the HOPE For the Future Community Officer. She is working with the HOPE project team to develop and deliver a programme for working with community groups across generations and making the Museum as an friendly space for older people. She wants  “museums to be a space for all to enjoy and develop their sense of wonder and imagination, no matter what age they are”.

How did you first become interested in insects?

I have always been interested in insects and all things in Nature – ever since I can remember. I grew up in the South West of England, playing on Dartmoor and the glorious beaches of Devon and Cornwall. I was always out in Nature with my brother, cousins and friends, looking for slowworms, caterpillars, crickets, stick insects – all sorts. That interest and sense of awe and wonder has never left me and I think I’m even more excited about it all now, as an adult.

What does your work on the HOPE project involve?

I run a programme of natural history focussed activities at the museum for older people, called Age of Nature. I also take specimens out to Community groups around Oxfordshire to engage older adult social groups. With community groups, I run projects for older people and intergenerational projects. These often involve grandparents and their grandchildren. I’m working to make the museum an Age-Friendly space so that our older visitors can enjoy it as much as everyone else.

What is your favourite insect?

This is a really hard question, because there are so many to choose from!

I recently fell in love with the Summer Chafer (Amphimallon solstitialis). These clumsy not-so-little coleopterans look a lot like the common Cockchafer, but smaller. From around June – August you’ll see these cute, chunky beetles wobbling around in gardens or inelegantly flying around the tops of trees, bashing into each-other and everything else around them with a great clonk. Around July – August this year, I had around 10 summer chafers per night, come through my house and crashing into my windows, sending themselves into a half-conscious daze. They often land on their backs and immediately try to fly, but because they’re upside down, they end up whizzing around in circles, quite loudly, like they’re taking part in some sort of breakdance battle – it’s quite entertaining!

They’re very cute and gentle creature, and while I was up and down picking them up and taking them back outside, I had the pleasure of seeing them up close and watching their funny little characters and antics. There were so many above my tree, certainly hundreds – they made it sound electrified, with all their zipping and zapping of their wings colliding with each other. Who couldn’t fall in love with this little face?

I’m also quite fond of Stick-Insects. I mentioned that I used to go looking for them when I lived down in Devon and Cornwall when I was young. Stick-Insects are not actually native to this country and often when I tell people I used to play with them in the wild when I was little, they say “you must be mistaken, they couldn’t have been Stick-Insects – you don’t get them in the UK”. The reason I used to find lots of stick insects everywhere when I was younger, is because, three species of stick insects from New Zealand were released in Devon and Cornwall between 100 – 50 years ago. They came here by accident, when plants from New Zealand were shipped to plant nurseries in the South West of England, which were hosting the phasmid’s eggs. Phasmids are insects in the Order Phasmatodea, which Stick-Insects belong to. ‘Phasma’ means phantom in Greek.

Metallic stick insects (Achrioptera manga) are a big hit with Museum visitors of all ages!

Stick-Insects always used to fascinate me with their expert camouflage, which used to give me hours of challenging entertainment, when my brother and cousins and I were playing in the woods, seeing who could spot the most Stick-Insects. I love the way they move too and now that I work here at the museum, we have quite a few live Stick-Insect species that I love to stop and watch as I walk by. We also have some live, large, blue Metallic Stick Insects (Achrioptera manga) that we take out to community groups and school groups for people to see and hold. They are so beautiful and the more I’ve gotten to handle them, the more I’ve seen that they each have their own little personalities! There’s one that often gets a bit grumpy and flares his wings out with a bright red flash of colour. And there’s the dopey one, who is really placid and likes to put his two front legs up and it wiggle side to side, like he’s showing us a little dance, before walking off the edge and falling on the floor. They’re really very sweet and cute.

If you enjoyed Hayleigh’s description of the Summer Chafer, you might like this blog post all about Chafers. We haven’t written about stick insects yet but perhaps we should? Let us know what you think using the Contact Us page.

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.

Life, as we know it

If you have visited the Museum lately you may have noted some changes. Some sections have been closed and some mysterious sounds have been heard from behind the boards that hide the view. What is going on?

Well, some exciting changes are coming! The main court is being revitalised with the first major redisplay of the permanent exhibitions for over 20 years. Visitors will be able to experience our collections like they never have done before, with new displays showcasing Life, as we know it.

The new displays will focus on the interaction between the changing geology of our planet with how life has evolved on Earth. Our new exhibits will trace the story of life on Earth and celebrate our planet’s incredible diversity of life. They will also encourage visitors to think about the future, as well as the past. We want to inspire our 750,000+ yearly visitors to take action to help preserve global biodiversity.

Artist's impression of how some of the new displays about the diversity of life will look
Artist’s impression of how some of the new displays will look

You may have already seen the first phase of Life, as we know it. In 2018 our Out of the Deep displays were installed. The work going on now is Phase 2 of the project and we will be continuing work on Life, as we know it over the next few years, with plans to update exhibits that extend throughout the Museum.

Out of the Deep

Things might look a bit unfinished at the moment, but were doing our best to keep disruption to a minumum. Right now, you can get an exciting glimpse of the displays as they come together, including new insect exhibits. Later in the Autumn you’ll be able to enjoy the finished results!

Have you seen anything new in the Museum? Let us know by getting in touch using our Contact Us page.