Book your place at our FREE Event this Easter!

Are you aged 10 – 14? Then join us for a FREE Crunchy on the Outside event here at the museum this Easter.

A Game of Life Cycles – Tuesday 12th April 2022, 1 – 3pm

Discover more about the stages of insect life cycles, then make and play your own insect-themed board game.  Can your insect make it through all the stages of metamorphosis to become an adult? Can they overcome the challenges along the way and lay eggs to make the next generation?

Here are all the details you need:

WHAT:              FREE workshop – A Game of Life Cycles

WHEN:             Tuesday 12th April 2022 , 1pm to 3pm

WHERE:           Museum of Natural History, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PW

WHO:               10 to 14 year olds

To book – email: hopelearning@oum.ox.ac.uk

Insects Online

When the weather is chilly there aren’t many insects about, but we still have lots of online ‘Crunchy’ insect activities for you to try. We hope they will boost your insect expertise!

How to spot an insect

What makes an insect an insect? How to spot an insect is an introduction to insect anatomy: the body parts that make up an insect. Discover the key features entomologists use spot insects and how insects are different from some of their close relatives. You can then test yourself with our quick quiz!

Insect ID

Ever wondered what that insect is? Insect ID takes you into a deeper exploration of the ‘Big 5’ groups of insects in Britain:

  • beetles
  • bees, wasps & ants
  • butterflies & moths
  • true flies
  • true bugs.

Discover the differences between them, learn how to spot each type and put your skills to the test with our ID challenge.  

Know your bees

There is more to bees than hives and honey! Know your bees explores some of the rich variety of bees found in Britain. We’ve also included some tools to help you make your own observations of bees.

Looking for more?

Hummingbird hawkmoth, Macroglossum stellatarum. Image credit: Rodger Caseby

If you’d like to go a bit further and, as the weather gets a bit warmer, get outside and do some investigating of your own, why not try one of our inset investigation ideas:

  • Different flowers asks whether different types of flower attract different insects
  • Insect Pollination investigates the range of important insect pollinators (it’s not just bees!)
  • Time of day explores whether different insects visit flowers at different times of day

We would love to hear how you get on. Get in touch using the comments below or the Contact Us page.

Insect Fun in the Museum – Saturday 12th March

Super Science Saturday: Fantastic Minibeasts

OUMNH Super Science Saturday by IWPhotographic

Drop in to the museum for this fun family Science Fair on Saturday 12th March, 12-4pm. Meet experts to find out more about tiny creatures like insects, spiders and more!

No need to book – just come along and, whilst you are in the museum, why not join us for our Insect Show: Insects: Beasties or Besties.

Insects: Beasties or Besties Family Science Show

Saturday 12th March, 1pm and 2.30pm

Ages 6+

Come along to our fun and interactive family show all about insects. You’ll meet a visitor to the museum, with a dislike of insects, who is confronted by a giant talking dung beetle! The unlikely pair take a journey, looking at the wonderful, and vitally important, role of insects in our world.

Please note that the show will be held in the Museum’s Lecture Theatre which has a capacity of 195 seats and social distancing will not be in place. Visitors are encouraged to wear a face mask for the duration of the show and hand sanitiser will be available when you enter/exit. 

The show is FREE but please book online.

Bee-flies: A sign of Spring

At this time of year, after the long winter months, we are all looking for signs of Spring.   One thing that entomologists look forward to is the first sightings of bee-flies.   These very cute, furry flies start to emerge in late February and early March.

Bombylius major, the dark-edged bee-fly, is one of Erica McAlister’s favourite British insects and she tells us why in this video.

Find out more about Bee-flies

To find out more about bee-flies, check out this page on the Dipterists Forum. There is also an excellent guide to bee-fly identification which you can find here.

In addition, the Dipterists Forum run an annual Bee-fly Watch which gathers together records of sightings.  This is really important for monitoring changes in distribution and flight period.  You can contribute to this important science project by adding your sightings here:

Bee-fly Watch | Soldierflies and Allies Recording Scheme (brc.ac.uk)

Have you seen any bee-flies yet this Spring? Let us know, too, by telling us below or by using the Contact Us page.

Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente

Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente, Deputy Head of Research here at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, tells us how he first became interested in natural history. Hear about his work as a palaeoentomologist specialising in the study of insects fossilised in amber, including the discovery of a fascinating lacewing species from around 100 million years ago with an ingenious method of camouflage and defence.

Ricardo’s research into the fossilised lacewing species, Hallucinochrysa diogenesi, has shown that the strategy of covering the body with materials from the environment as a way to camouflage and defend, known as trash-carrying, evolved at least 100 million years ago. Several species of invertebrates use this strategy today, including green lacewing larvae, and some sea urchin and crab species. Can you think of other ways in which insects defend themselves from their prey? Let us know in the comments below or in the Contact Us section of the blog.

Danielle Czerkaszyn

You may already know that the museum contains millions of natural history specimens, but did you know that it also houses a world-class collection of books and journals, plus a priceless archive?  Held in 38 different locations across the museum, the collection of over 20,000 books covers all areas of natural history: zoology, geology, mineralogy, palaeontology, and is particularly known for its collection of entomology books and journals.  In fact, we believe it is the third largest entomology library in the UK after the Natural History Museum in London and the library of the Royal Entomological Society.  

In addition, there is a priceless archive of letters, maps, field notebooks, photographs, artwork and other items of interest.  Where else would you find letters from Charles Darwin, the death mask of the Swiss biologist and geologist Louis Agassiz, and the trowel that laid the foundation stone of the museum’s building in 1855.

Trowel used to lay the Museum’s foundation stone

So, who is in charge of this fascinating treasure trove? That job falls to Danielle Czerkaszyn, the museum’s Librarian and Archivist.  I went along to meet Danielle to find out how she came to work at the museum, what her job involves and to learn more about the amazing collection in her care.

Danielle Czerkaszyn

From History to Natural History

Having first completed a degree in History in her native Canada, Danielle came to the UK to do a Master’s degree in Museum Studies.  Following this, she was selected for a place as a Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian History Faculty Library here in Oxford and secured her post at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in 2017.  Danielle revealed:

“When I came for the interview, I was asked what my weakness would be in the role and I replied that I didn’t really know a great deal about natural history! The good thing is that I learn new things every day and my knowledge of natural history has expanded!”

As well as a valuable resource for staff at the Museum and other members of the University, the library and archive is open to anyone with an interest in natural history.  On a day to day basis, Danielle deals with many enquiries from the public requesting visits or requests for articles and chapters of books to be provided digitally to help with research.  High-use collections in the library and archive are currently in the process of being digitised which will make it even more accessible to natural historians around the world.  Danielle is also responsible for keeping the collection up to date with new publications and dealing with donations that come in from members of the public. 

Highlights of the Collection

I asked Danielle to choose some of her favourite entomology items from the collection and she suggested two incredible and unique works – one from the archive and one from the library. 

The first is William Jones’ Icones, one of the most scientifically important and stunning works on butterflies and moths ever produced.

William Jones’ Icones

“This work as one of my favourites because the paintings are so

detailed and beautiful. Plus it is completely unique.” 

Danielle Czerkaszyn

Danielle’s second choice is Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (Insects of Surinam) published in 1705. 

Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (Insects of Surinam) published in 1705

“Maria Sibylla Merian is definitely a figure to be admired as a pioneering role model for women and I love showcasing her work.”

Danielle Czerkaszyn

Check out our blog posts on these incredible items from the collection to find out more:

William Jones’ Icones

Maria Sibylla Merian’s Insects of Surinam

Thank you so much to Danielle for giving us a fascinating insight into the library and archive here at the Museum of Natural History, and for sharing some of the incredible works in her care. 

To find out more about the library and archive visit https://oumnh.ox.ac.uk/library.

Do you have a favourite book on insects? Tell us about it here or in the comments below.