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It’s Science Uncovered time again beetlers! We can’t wait to show off our beetles to the thousands of you who will be visiting the Natural History Museum on the night. We'll be revealing specimens from our scientific collections hitherto never seen by the public before! Well, maybe on Monday at the TEDx event at the Royal Albert Hall we did reveal a few treasures, including specimens collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Charles Darwin, as seen below.

 

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Lucia talking to the audience of TEDx ALbertopolis on Monday 23rd September.

 

lydtedweb.jpgLydia and Beulah spanning 250 years of Museum collections at TEDx Albertopolis.

 

Last year we met with about 8,500 of YOU – so that’s 8,500 more people that now love beetles, right? So, as converts, you may be coming back to see and learn some more about this most speciose and diverse of organisms or you may be a Science Uncovered virgin and no doubt will be heading straight to the beetles (found in the DCII Cocoon Atrium at the Forests Station).


This year the Coleoptera team will be displaying a variety of specimens, from the weird and wonderful to the beetles we simply cannot live without! Here’s what the team will be up to...


Max Barclay, Collections Manager and TEDx speaker
For Science Uncovered I will be talking about the diversity of beetles in the tropical forests of the world. I have spent almost a year of my life in field camps in various countries and continents, and have generally come back with thousands of specimens, including new species, for the collections of the Natural History Museum. I will explain how we preserve and mount specimens, and how collections we make today differ from those made by previous generations.

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Crocker Range, Borneo - it's really hard work in the field...but, co-ordinating one's chair with one's butterfly net adds a certian sophistication.

 

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The Museum encourages its staff to be respectful of and fully integrate with local cultures whilst on fieldwork. Here is Max demonstrating seemless cultural awareness by wearing a Llama print sweater in Peru.

 

I will also talk about the Cetoniine flower chafers collected and described by Alfred Russell Wallace in the Malay Archipelago, and how we recognise Wallace’s material from other contemporary specimens, as well as the similarities and differences between techniques used and the chafers collected in Borneo by Wallace in the 1860s, Bryant in the 1910s, and expeditions of ourselves and our colleagues in the 2000s.

 

Lydia Smith and Lucia Chmurova, Specimen Mounters and trainee acrobats
As part of the forest section at Science Uncovered this year we are going to have a table centred on the diversity of life that you may see and hear in tropical forests. Scientists at the Natural History Museum are regularly venturing out to remote locations around the world in search of new specimens for its ever expanding collection.

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L&L acrobatic team on an undergraduate trip to Borneo with Plymouth University.


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Maliau Basin, Borneo: Lucia injects some colour into an otherwise pedestrian flight interception trap

 

We will be displaying some of the traps used to catch insects (and most importantly beetles!) along with showing some specimens recently collected. We will also have a sound game where you can try your luck at guessing what noises go with what forest creatures. Good luck and we look forward to seeing you!

 

Hitoshi Takano, Scientific Associate and Museum Cricketer

Honey badgers, warthogs and Toto - yes, it can only be Africa! This year at Science Uncovered, I will be talking about the wondrous beetles of the African forests and showcasing some of the specimens collected on my recent fieldtrips as well as historic specimens collected on some of the greatest African expeditions led by explorers such as David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.

 

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Museum cricket team, The Archetypes (yes, really!). Hitoshi walking off, centre field, triumphant! Far right, Tom Simpson, Cricket Captain and one of the excellent team organising Science Uncovered for us this year.

 

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Mount Hanang, Tanzania: Jungle fever is a common problem amongst NHM staff. Prolonged amounts of time in isolated forest environments can lead to peculiar behaviour and an inability to socialise...but don't worry, he'll be fine on the night...

 

There are more dung beetle species in Africa than anywhere else in the world - find out why, how I collect them and come and look at some of the new species that have been discovered in the past few years!!

 

Beulah Garner, Curator and part-time Anneka Rice body double

Not only do I curate adult beetles, I also look after the grubs! Yes, that's right, for the first time ever we will be revealing some of the secrets of the beetle larvae collection. I can't promise it will be pretty but it will be interesting! I'll be talkng about beetle life cycles and the importance of beetles in forest ecosystems. One of the reasons why beetles are amongst the most successful organisms on the planet is because of their ability to inhabit more than one habitat in the course of their life cycles.

 

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Crocker Range, Borneo: fieldwork is often carried out on very tight budgets, food was scarce; ate deep fried Cicada to stay alive...

 

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Nourages Research Station, French Guiana: museum scientists are often deposited in inacessible habitats by request from the Queen; not all breaks for freedom are successful.

 

On display will be some horrors of the collection and the opportunity to perhaps discuss and sample what it will be like to live in a future where beetle larvae have become a staple food source (or entomophagy if you want to be precise about it)...go on, I dare you!

 

Chris Lyal, Coleoptera Researcher specialising in Weevils (Curculionidae) and champion games master

With the world in the throes of a biodiversity crisis, and the sixth extinction going on, Nations have agreed a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. The first target is to increase understanding of biodiversity and steps we can take to conserve it and use it sustainably. That puts the responsibility for increasing this understanding fairly and squarely on people like us. Now, some scientists give lectures, illustrated with complex and rigorously-constructed graphs and diagrams. Others set out physical evidence on tables, expounding with great authority on the details of the natural world. Us – we’re going to play games.

 

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Ecosystem collapse! (partially collapsed).

 

Thrill to Ecosystem Collapse! and try to predict when the complex structure will fall apart as one after another species is consigned to oblivion. Guess why the brazil nut tree is dependent on the bucket orchid! Try your luck at the Survival? game and see if you make it to species survival or go extinct. Match the threatened species in Domino Effect! Snakes and ladders as you’ve not played it before! For the more intellectual, there’s a trophic level card game (assuming we can understand the rules in time). All of this coupled with the chance to discuss some of the major issues facing the natural world (and us humans) with Museum staff and each other.

 

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Here Chris tells us a joke:

'Why did the entomologists choose the rice weevil over the acorn weevil?'

'It was the lesser of two weevils'

IMG_7063.jpgJoana Cristovao, Chris's student and assistant games mistress!

Big Nature Day at the Museum: Joana with a... what's this? This is no beetle!

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One last thought, things can get a bit out of hand late at night in the Museum, it's not just the scientists that like to come out and play once a year, it's the dinosaurs too...

 

We look forward to meeting you all on the night!

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Monday 14 May

 

The team flies to Kisangani on a Monusco flight provided free by UNESCO

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We took care to follow the detailed instructions for using the on-board facilities…

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Stocking up two weeks’ worth of provisions in Kisangani – mainly sardines and corned beef –

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..and eventually able to locate a source of reasonable quality ethanol (for insect preservation, of course).

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Heading out of Kisangani by road and river to Yangambi

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The first of many ferry crossings – this one was pretty straightforward for our two 4-wheel drive vehicles

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The next was a little more complicated....

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as the video below shows....

 

 

Always lots of interesting people to meet

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Including well-brought-up children helping with the washing-up

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and down the road towards Yangambi

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After a couple of hours we arrive at the WWF Yangambi Forest Reserve Station which is to be our base for the next couple of weeks.

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We meet our cook Michel, who makes such a major difference to our quality of life during our stay at Yangambi with his excellent cooking, especially the local chicken.

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That night Geoff sets out the light sheet with the mercury vapour lamp, and we collect a bumper harvest of all kinds of night-flying insects.

 

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Tuesday 15 May

 

Among the harvest of the previous night’s collecting at light is a remarkable-looking female fig wasp – Agaon sp. (thanks to Simon van Noort, Iziko Museum, Cape Town South Africa for the Identification). Figs (Ficus spp.) live in an obligatory symbiosis with these wasps without which they can’t be fertilised. The intricate biology and interrelationships between the fig species, their pollinating wasps and many obligatory associated species is fascinating and still needs to be unravelled for many species associations.

 

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Wednesday 16 May

 

Geoff and Lorna sort through the wealth of the material already collected, revealing a spectacular mosquito reared by Lorna from larvae collected in a hollow tree trunk. The filthy black water, which Lorna inadvertently managed to swallow while collecting larvae by siphoning up the water, yielded several specimens of this voracious predatory mosquito – a species of Toxorhynchites – also known as the “elephant mosquito”. In order to rear these specimens to adulthood Lorna had to keep them supplied with food in the form of smaller mosquito larvae.

 

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The colourful irridescent scales of Toxorhynchites bring to mind butterfly wing scales – far removed from our usual perception of mosquitoes and their unpleasant associations.

 

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Thursday 17 May

 

Andy rides pillion to the main area of pristine primary forest in the Yangambi Forest Reserve……

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…to set up the Malaise Trap – an interception trap for (mainly) flying insects, ands a series of Yellow Pan Traps – simple water-filled bowls with a little detergent to break the surface tension – attractive to many insects due to the colour resembling young vegetation. Both trapping systems are extremely efficient, low maintenance collecting methods.

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Sorting through the first results of the Malaise Trap and Yellow Pan Traps placed in the forest

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The Yellow Pans yielded the rare ponerine ant Phrynoponera sveni – described from the Congo in 1916 – nearly 100 years ago. These are the first Congolese specimens for the NHM collection

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and the ubiquitous “African stink ant” Pachycondyla tarsata which lived up to its common name.

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When Andy sorted the first Malaise Trap sample he found something that he wasn’t even certain was a beetle, which was identified later by Max Barclay as an aleocharine staphylinid, probably a myrmecophilous species. Any suggestions as to its identity gratefully received (note the unusual reduced tarsi)

 

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– also for the following prionine cerambycid collected at light, which is absent from the NHM collection and has so far defeated more than one international specialist....

 

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Friday 18 May

 

Friday was market day in Yangambi - we saw a lot of interesting things on sale – Lorna successfully bargained for a bag of chilli peppers – “piment” –

 

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which spiced up our regular lunch menu of imported corned beef and local avocado  – a perfect combination (at least according to Geoff).

 

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Saturday 19 – Friday 25 May

 

Getting towards the end of the trip. The last week has been incredibly productive with night-light trapping, yellow pans and Malaise trapping, and screen-sweeping of (mainly) microhymenoptera. We have collected tens of thousands of specimens, many of which will undoubtedly be new to Science, and the majority will be new records for the D.R. Congo, with so many new acquisitions for the NHM. Thanks to our colleagues at UNESCO, WWF and Tervuren Museum, this has been a very successful expedition.

 

Many thanks to the team  ……

 

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…..and au revoir le Congo

 

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Our Big Nature Day on 27 May is a special kind of celebration and a brilliant day out for anyone who's interested in the natural world, whatever their age. It is the largest free event of its kind in the UK, and this year we've invited more than 50 nature groups from across the country to join us.

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Get bug-faced and hatted for the Insect Parades led by the insect band performing on stilts at our nature festival. Select images to enlarge them

One of the big excitements on Sunday is sure to be the Insect Parade led by the colourful insect band from the Museum's Darwin Centre atrium. In the morning and at lunchtime, children can drop into workshops with the street theatre company Emergeny Exit Arts to make bug-themed hats and then follow the parades - scheduled for 13.00 and 15.30 - through the Museum wearing their creations. Face painters are at hand to help kids look their buggy best.

 

Like last year, there will be marquees on the Courtyard and this is where you'll find most of the visiting nature group displays. 'It's really exciting to welcome so many voluntary nature groups across the country to the Museum - what a fantastic chance for our visitors to meet so many wildlife experts in one place,' says Lucy Carter from the OPAL citizen science project. Popular stands are bound to be The London Wildlife Trust's stag beetles and the Bat Conservation Trust's where they will be investigating bat poo!

 

Worm charming sessions take place under the Courtyard trees and several nature talks will be held in the Museum's Attenborough Studio. A Busy Bee Puppet Show workshop will entertain the little ones in the morning.

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Out in the Wildlife Garden you can get into pond-dipping, bug hunting, ladybird counting, leaf and nettle trailing, and more. We're interested in recording the species found in our garden, so scientists and volunteers will be around to help with finds and identification advice. We'll also be welcoming a group of cub scouts to the garden who are trying out their brand new Cub Scout Naturalist Activity Badge resource (the badge is pictured below).

 

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Over on the West Lawn, look out for the Bee aware display in the marquee and the National Trust's 'shepherd's hut'.

 

And remember, this is the national Be Nice to Nettles Week, so mind where you tread.

 

Big Nature Day celebrates the UN International Day of Biological Diversity and OPAL's nature activities and citizen science projects.

 

More details about Big Nature Day.

 

Find out which nature groups will be at Big Nature Day

 

 

 

Enjoy the video clip below of last year's Big Nature Day

 

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I bet Hertfordshire, the home of our Tring Museum, is covered in snow as I write this blog. And lots of local children will be getting even more over-excited than usual as they start their half-term holidays this weekend.

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Another source of excitement is sure to be the opening of our Tring Museum's Animal Record-Breakers exhibition earlier this week.

 

As well as the chance to gasp at incredible records and feats in the animal kingdom as we run up to the Olympics, the exhibition has lots of entertaining games and challenges for children.

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Big beetle displays. Rhinoceros and dung beetles in the Scarabaeidae family are among the strongest animals for their size. Some species can carry up to 850 times their own weight.

 

I asked Alice Adams, Tring's Manager who helped design the exhibition, about its first week.

 

'Since we opened on Monday, all the kids and especially the two visiting schools have been having brilliant fun in the exhibition. Parents and teachers taking pics of the kids with the horns, the animal sounds have been intriguing them and seem to be inspiring lots of animal noise-making from the kids - mostly howling wolves.

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Try out the Archerfish game or see what you look like in horns at Tring's new Animal Record-Breakers exhibition.

 

'The archerfish game is getting a good pounding too. Great to watch the kids get the hang of it and see their faces when they get the ball through the flap and it pops out at the bottom of the tree.

 

'Several kids were in awe of the shark head and disgusted by the chunk of whale blubber!! Made up for though by the gorgeous iridescent hummingbird.'

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From the scary to the pretty. Left: Mako shark head, Isurus oxyrhynchus. Sharks have a better sense of smell than any other fish. Right: Purple-throated carib, Eulampis jugularis. Hummingbirds have the fastest wingbeats in the bird world.

 

The exhibits explore the animal champions and runners-up so you'll find out the fastest, loudest, longest, most dangerous and much more.

 

The Animal Record-Breakers exhibition is free and well worth a visit at half-term or if you're visiting the Tring area over the coming months.

 

Read the latest news story about Tring's Animal Record-Breakers exhibition opening

 

animal-records-paperback-book.jpgAnd if you want to know more, there's the Museum's Animal Records book by Mark Carwardine. It's on sale at Tring's exhibition and online. The book inspired the exhibition and is packed full of fab facts and photos.

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"He that enlarges his curiosity after the works of nature, demonstrably multiplies the inlets to happiness"

This is the opening phrase of the preface to the third, 1799, edition of The Naturalist's and traveller's companion; by John Coakley Lettsom. M.D; where he defines the ultimate purpose of his book. A concise manual that has been somehow forgotten, it was a great achievement at it's time.

The first edition was published in London in 1772 by George Pearch and it seems to have sold out quickly as a second edition, corrected and enlarged followed in 1774, this time published by E & C Dilly also in London.

This is probably the first ever concise, modern, systematic and scientific manual on the preservation of natural history specimens and collections; giving advice not only on different aspects of capturing, finding, preserving, transporting and analysing plants, insects, fossils, animals and minerals but also on antiquities, religious rites, food, meteorology and even "precise directions for taking off impressions of cast from medals and coins".

The manual is also an incredibly practical, beautifully presented, well informed and advanced book that could be considered the founding publication for modern natural history preservation science. His advice on preserving natural history collections from pest attack anticipates by 200 years the groundbreaking Integrated Pest Management programs introduced in the last 20 years in Museums and Historic Houses: http://www.pestodyssey.org/

It is uncertain if the manual was used by the great explorers of the period but given how popular it was at the time, it would be expected that copies of the book were carried on the many voyages of exploration that took place after its publication. It seems certain that Charles Darwin owned and used a copy although the great man was never known for being a good caretaker of his natural history collections.
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John Coakley Lettsom was born in 1744 in Tortola, Virgin Islands. A Quaker concerned with anti-slavery, he manumitted the slaves from his two inherited plantations there; angering his plantation onwers neighbours then gaining their respect by setting up the first medical practice in the islands (with some of his former slaves trained as medical assistants) as he had become a doctor in Leiden, south Holland, in 1769.

Lettsom worked and travelled tirelessly all his life; famous for his commitment to his patients and the medical profession, he founded the Medical Society of London in 1775, the oldest in Britain and possibly in the world. In doing so, he showed great bravery and intelligence; parallel to his display of lateral thinking demonstrated in The Naturalist's and traveller's companion; by joining together the four branches of the medical profession in one society where they could share knowledge and experience: http://www.medsoclondon.org/index.html
Amazingly, he still had time to cultivate a famous garden in his London home, arranged according to the Linnaean system of classification: http://lettsomgardens.org.uk/history.html

The Library at the Natural History Museum also holds the original drawings made by his friend James Sowerby of the plants in Lettsom's garden, as well as a copy of his 1799 famous work "The natural history of the tea-tree".

Chris Ledgard's BBC4 Radio program: "What's eating your collections?" aired last September began quoting paragraphs from the Travellers's companion: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b013q311/Whats_Eating_the_Museum/

Bibliography:
The Golden Age of Quaker Botanists by Ann Nichols, Cumbria, 2006.

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Do you know what bugs are living near you? Are some spiders more common in cities or in the countryside?

 

Help us find out by joining in the new nationwide Bugs Count survey launched today, 8 June, by the Museum and OPAL partnership. The scientists asking for our help want to know what bugs are out there and the differences between what we find in the cities or rural areas.

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Hunt for bugs in soil, short or long grass. Search on paving and outsides of buildings and on plants and shrubs.small-tortoiseshell-butterfly-crop.jpg

On your bugs hunt, keep a special eye out for six specific minibeasts, including the small tortoiseshell butterfly (right), which is in decline. Use the Species Quest bugs sheet to help in your identification.

 

Find out how to join in the OPAL Bugs Count and what resources you'll need

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You'll be surprised at what buggy creatures you can find in towns and the countryside.

 

On the recent Big Nature Count of our Wildlife Garden, we found over 60 species of bugs in a morning and the final count hasn't been done yet. As well as the unusual drab wood soldier fly, Solva marginata, discovered, there was a new Coleophora glaucicolella moth found, not recorded in the garden before. And just the other day, a Museum volunteer out on a field trip in Surrey's Bookham Common, found a population of scarlet malachite beetles, left, one of the UK's rarest insects.

 

Read the news story about the bug count and which six specific minibeasts you should look out for

 

Come along to the Museum's Attenborough Studio this Saturday, 11 June, to hear two Big City Big Hunt talks at 12.30 and 14.30 with our scientists. Afterwards, you can take part in various bug-hunting activities and pick up a Bugs Count pack in the Wildlife Garden.

What's a bug?

The term ‘bug’ is a widely used name for insects. In our Bugs Count we are including non-insect groups such as spiders, centipedes, millipedes and woodlice. These are all collectively part of the group called arthropods and are invertebrates.

 

True bugs are a specific group of insects that include shield bugs, water bugs, aphids, scale insects and others.

 

More bug information

 

Find out about bug identification in our Nature Online section

 

Join the Bug forum

 

Browse our Young naturalists page and enjoy the Big Nature Day video

 

Discover how to identify the Cockshafer May bug and watch the video


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There's no doubt about it, when you join us for our Big Nature Day extravaganza this Sunday on 22 May, you'll get your hands dirty.


But that's pretty essential if you're going to help our scientists and wildlife experts in the Big Nature Count to find and identify how many different species of plant and animal there are in our Museum Wildlife Garden. It's a 24-hour census - or a bioblitz race for those familiar with the term -  to celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity and International Year of Forests, as well as the start of the UN's Decade on Biodiversity.

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Can you handle it? Find out which worm charmer to be on Big Nature Day with our experts in the BBC film clip on our website

As Stuart HIne, manager of our Centre for UK Biodiversity says: 'We have many visitors to the Wildlife Garden, from our regular human ones to more unusual visitors such as honeybees, damselflies and hawkmoths. In fact, since the garden opened in 1995, we’ve recorded more than 2,000 different species and it would be great to know what's about on Sunday.'

 

Along with the regular Big Nature Count guided tours, worm charming (above) will be a popular highlight of the day. There are two sessions at 12.00 and 15.00. The recent rain should help lure the worms to the ground's surface. Although we're hoping that the sun will shine gloriously on the day, of course.

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Spot the spots on the ladybirds you find and watch out for cockchafer May bugs on the Big Nature Count guided tours. Select images to enlarge

Other garden action includes the Bugs Count, Tree Hunt, moth trap checking, investigating pond life, and check out the Bee Tree.

 

Inside the Darwin Centre, head over to the Specimen Roadshow to identify your favourite specimens (or bring in a picture) and there are nature talks in the Darwin Centre's Attenborough Studio.

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Look around and above, plants and trees may hide moths (like this Poplar hawkmoth, left) and butterflies. There are eight common trees in the Wildlife Garden to identify. Select images to enlarge

Take pictures on the day

Most important of all, though, bring your cameras or have your mobile phone to the ready to snap the species you do manage to spot. With these, you can help us create a spectacular Photo Wall in the Darwin Centre atrium at the Interactive Media area. You can print your pictures here for the display or upload them with your comments to our Big Nature Day guestbook on the computers available or at home afterwards.

 

Big Nature Day is a free, drop-in event that will appeal to all ages, but you'll need to book on the tours and worm charming sessions.

 

When you arrive at the Museum head for the West lawn or Darwin Centre atrium where you'll be directed to the Base Camp in the Darwin Centre Courtyard, the hub for the day's activities, and where you can see lots of special displays.

 

Keep up to date on our Big Nature Day website for the Big Nature Count tours schedule and latest information

 

Get prepared for the activities on Big Nature Day by watching some great how-to nature videos on our website

 

Explore the Museum's Wildlife Garden

 

Discover what else is on for the International Year of Biodiversity

 

Visit our newly-launched Decade on Biodiversity website

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Yann Arthus-Bertrand film treats at the French Institute on 22 May and on the International Year of Forests website

If you want to see an amazing nature documentary by The Earth From Above photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, head over to the nearby French Institute for a special free screening of Home at 18.30. Our Museum botanist Sandy Knap is introducing the film. Although it's free you need to book a place on their website.

 

Find out about booking for the special screening of Home at the French Institute

 

You can also catch a glimpse of Yann's special short fiilm for the International Year of Forests on the official website

 


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What are you most squeamish about? Giant cockroaches, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, beetles or even moths?

 

Me, I'd say most of them, especially if they were the size of a hand or more. Luckily, most of the biggest bugs on our planet are usually found in jungle rainforests, savannahs and caves, or in the safety of our Museum collections.

 

However, this summer, some of our largest and heaviest insect and arachnid specimens are being let out to star in the Big Bugs exhibition at our Natural History Museum at Tring which opened yesterday and runs until 21 November.

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The Australian rhinoceros cockroach is the heaviest cockroach in the world. A female was recorded at just over 1 oz (33.45gms).

From the safety of their exhibition display cases, despite my squeamishness, like many others I will find these mega mini-beasts utterly mesmerising to behold, and highly recommend a visit to Big Bugs. The exhibition is free.

Live creatures like the venomous Emperor scorpion and world's longest stick insect at 14 inches, are on show alongside many rare and incredible specimens from the Natural History Museum's collection. It's the first time that all these enormous bug specimens have been displayed together.


And it's not just the scary bugs and spiders you'll meet, but eye-catching beauties like the delicate Helicopter damselfly and Queen Alexandra's Birdwing butterfly, the largest butterfly in the world.

 

There will also be creepy-crawly activities for kids at the exhibition and other bug-related activities at Tring throughout the summer season.

 

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The docile giant leaf bush-cricket from New Guinea has a maximun wingspan of 11 inches

 

The inspiration behind the exhibition is a recently published Museum book, Big Bugs Life-size by our Museum entomologist and bug expert, George Beccaloni, which features actual life-size pictures of each marvellous mini-beast included.

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My favourites in the book are the nocturnal rhinoceros cockroach, which is the world's heaviest cockroach, and the giant leaf bush cricket with a wing span of a whopping 11 inches. But the white witch moth, below right, tops that with 12 inches and the greatest wingspan of any living insect.

 

Read the news story about the Big Bugs exhibition and book

 

The Natural History Museum at Tring is located in Hertfordshire.

 

Explore insects and spiders on our website. You can identify and discuss bugs on our bug forum

 

 

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.
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Did you know, an incredible 80% of the world's known species are insects and the UK has about 23,500 different types? Or that stick insects make the perfect pets?

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'I won't scratch the furniture, please can I be your family pet?' Our Insects as Pets event is on Saturday 26 June

It's definitely the small things in life that matter this week. We join other organisations and groups around the country to celebrate National Insect Week, from 21 to 27 June. We have special events going on all week and visitors will be able to meet some of our insect experts and their creepy-crawly companions.

 

Highlights of the week include Thursday night's insect talk, Six-Legged Wonders: The Return on 24 June in the Attenborough Studio, where you'll hear from 3 Museum entomologists who reveal insect truths. The talk also features an insect trivia quiz and the bar is open for drinks outside the studio. Watch out for the deadliest insect, so deadly in fact, it has to be kept in 2 separate bags... and some edible ants. You need to book for the Six-Legged Wonders ticketed event.

 

rose-chafer-Cetonia-aurata-500.jpgMy favourite event planned for Saturday is the Insects as Pets talk, where you'll discover what lovable crawlers stick insects and giant cockroaches can be. So I'm assured. On Saturday, there's also pond-dipping in our Wildlife Garden.

 

Find out about National Insect Week events and activities

 

Read the news story about National Insect Week

 

For events around the country, visit the official National Insect Week website


Watch out for some rare six-legged beauties, like the endangered Rose Chafer beetle, pictured right, in our online Species of the day insect series.

 

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Dinosaurs by torch light

It was bound to be a success of course. Torch-lit tour of the Dinosaurs gallery, sleeping in Central Hall next to Dippy (our famous diplodocus skeleton), a bugs’ talk and the new Sony PlayStation game to try out. A child’s dream, come true.

 

The first Dino Snores in association with Sony PlayStation was a sell-out, pretty much as soon as it was announced before Christmas, and attracted lots of media attention. On Saturday 16 January, about 200 over-excited kids descended on the Museum to experience a real Night at the Museum, and find out exactly what goes on when the dinosaurs should be getting their shut-eye.

 

dino-snores-boy-costume.jpgLIke the boy pictured left, who really got into the dino spirit, Mack Pegram, aged 9, was one of the lucky children there, he loved it:

 

"It was very very very very very very very very fun! And brilliant because there were lots of fun activities to do and I liked sleeping in the Central Hall because you can look up and see the diplodocus. My favourite activity was the Bugs Bite Back because they talked about loads of cool bugs that were poisonous and venomous. I definitely would like to go again."

 

And did Dippy, the 26-metre-long diplodocus skeleton, twitch at all as the children slept alongside, I wondered?

 

Event organiser, Terry Lester, filled me in on the spooky stuff: "Three of us, Matt, Beth and me stayed awake the whole night and kept an eye on Central Hall while everyone was sleeping. At around 3.30am I was looking towards Dinosaur Way and saw a shadowy figure run from the Dinosaur gallery entrance across into Human Biology. We knew it wasn’t anyone from Central Hall, so Matt and I grabbed our torches and in our socks (shoes were removed beforehand so as not to wake the sleeping hoards) and dashed to investigate. Slightly spooked we searched the darkened galleries, but to no avail. Not a soul to be seen (well, not a living one anyhow). We checked with the Control Room and as agreed, they had not been patrolling the ground floor of the Waterhouse building. Figment of a sleep-deprived mind or something more other-worldly?"

 

Ooooh, weird...

 

The whole occasion was filled with memorable highlights, as Terry describes:


dino-snores-central-hall.jpg"Seeing the kids entering the museum with such evident excitement (parents sporting resigned looks on their faces), hearing the cheers during the welcome talk, the friendly rivalry between the groups, the screams (of excitement, not terror) from the Dinosaur Gallery during the torch lit trails and the clapping as the lights went out in Central Hall at bedtime were just a few of them.

 

"Erica McAlister and TV host Nick Baker, who did a talk about bugs - had never met before doing their show, Revenge of the Mini Beasts, but you’d never have thought it seeing them in action, they looked like they’d been working together for years. Couldn’t quite see which one was the side-kick, but I think Erica came off marginally as the one in charge."

 

"The kids' favourites were the stories about the aggressiveness of killer bees, scorpions and caterpillars," recalls Erica, "specimens of which Nick happened to have hidden in his sleeping bag!"

 

The next Dino Snores is on 13 February and there are more to come. Adults, don't despair, you can get in free accompanied by 5-6 children, but stay close, because dinsoaurs and bugs are about...

 

Read the news story about the first Dino Snores. See what Erica McAlister who presented the bugs show has to say in her blog post.