Skip navigation

A week ago last Friday, we had S'Warm, the National Youth Theatre's mass spectacle, outside in the Museum grounds. The 100s of S'warmers highlighted the plight of the world's honeybees in a dramatic swarming performance, and drew attention to the environmental challenges facing us all as the planet warms up.


'It was an atmospheric, hypnotic and moving event, beautifully choreographed,' said Laura Harmour our event co-ordinator, recalling the intriguing, surreal sight as S'Warmers descended on our East Lawn for the first part of the performance and gave out sticks of wildflower seeds to visitors.


After handing out wildflower seed sticks, the theatre cast moved off in a very, very long line across the Museum car park and over to the main front lawn, where the full contingent of nearly 400 young people completed the main performance of poetry reading, movement and accompanying music. The Wildlife Garden also featured in the drama.

'It  was a real challenge for the National Youth Theatre organisers to get the S'Warmers here as they all came by public transport - in full costumes of paper beekeeper outfits, complete with eerie-looking veils.' said Laura.


Our event on 20 August was part of S'warm's week of events across London. Some of the other famous landmarks they swarmed at included the Bank of England and MI6. Find out more about S'warm


Enjoy these photos if you missed the performance here. (They remind me of a particularly weird Doctor Who episode.) Click on the images to enlarge them.













Bats take over Bank Holiday Weekend

Posted by Rose Aug 26, 2010

If you want to discover some real stars of the night this Bank Holiday Weekend - as opposed to the festival rockers or carnival kind - flock to our Wildlife Garden for Bat Weekend on Saturday and Sunday, 28 and 29 August.


Three species of bat have been seen flying and feeding in the Museum's Wildlife Garden (Common pipestrelle, above, Soprano pipestrelle, and Daubenton's bat). Live bat photos here and below © Hugh Clark, Bat Conservation Trust

We join the European Bat Weekenders in a celebratiion of bats, giving 1000s of people across the country the chance to find out more about bats. The Bat Conservation Trust is urging everyone to go out and see and hear bats in their natural enviroment.



Highlights at our own weekend event include a bat treasure hunt round the garden, hands-on demonstrations from bat experts, including bat box building, and lots of batty crafts. Come and see a display of insects that bats feed on and visit the Bat Conservation Trust information tent on the front lawn. We have teamed up with the Bat Conservation Trust, our Centre for UK Biodiversity, and the OPAL team to bring you the event.


Batty talks are being held on Saturday and Sunday in the Attenborough Studio. See some of the speakers' featured bat specimens in the Darwin Centre atrium after the talks at 13.15 and 15.15.


Fingers crossed for some sunshine. Last year, we had a really popular event here (pictured below).


Find out more about our Bat Weekend. If you can't make it here, see what bat events are near you.

Any sightings of bats made over the weekend can be shared online on the Interactive Big Bat Map. Look out for the common pipestrelle (in flight above) and the brown long-eared bat (above right).

On Saturday, also watch out for the scary-looking Daubenton's bat featured online as our Species of the Day.


I leave you with a few bat facts:


There are 18 species of bat in the UK, 17 of which are known to breed here, accounting for more than a quarter of mammal species.


It is estimated that a pipistrelle bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a single night! There are few other nocturnal insect-eaters, and a single insect-eating bat may eat 100s of insects a night.


Human activities have by far the greatest influence on bat populations. Loss of habitat for roosting and foraging has caused declines in bat populations. Intensive farming practices have led to a reduction in the abundance of insects which the bats rely on as their only food source.


Find out much more about bats on the Bat Conservation Trust website. Youngsters can join the Young Batworkers' Club, learn batty facts and find fund things to do.

Click on the images to enlarge them. Thanks to the Bat Conservation Trust for the live bat images.


Bee movie

Posted by Rose Aug 12, 2010
Get a glimpse of our thriving bee colony inside the Wildlife Garden's bee tree in our latest video on the Natural History Museum's YouTube space.honeycomb-up-close2.jpg
In the bee tree video, join Museum beekeeper Luke Dixon as he strolls through the Wildlife Garden and looks inside the bee tree's observation hive to marvel at the colony and its wild honeycomb.

Watch the Wildlife Garden's bee tree video on YouTube


Luke reminds us how much we need bees and how important it is to encourage them, especially since the drastic decline in our worldwide bee population.bee-tree-tall.jpg


We've been keeping bees here in the Wildlife Garden for about 6 or 7 years and in the height of the summer months our bee colony can be 50,000 strong. Once a bee emerges from its cell it can live between 3 to 6 months depending on the time of year and food available.


This summer the bees living in the bee tree, pictured here earlier in June, have had a very successful season and have since extended the honeycomb to the very bottom of the hive.


You can also catch up on the bee tree colony's daily progress with our online beecam.


As the days get longer they're beginning to settle down for the winter. The male bees, the drones, are being kicked out of the hive and the number of workers is reducing dramatically as the queen stops laying eggs for new offspring.

The honey that the bees have made is their winter stores, to feed on in the long, cold months when there is nothing to forage on outside of the hive. I wonder if there'll be any spare for us?



Read the earlier bee tree blog.


Find out more about the Museum's honeybee species, Apis mellifera.



Click on the images to enlarge them.


T. rex roars back

Posted by Rose Aug 4, 2010

Last week I joined the queue to re-visit our famous giant, moving T. rex in the Dinosaurs Gallery. I felt the buzz of excitement and anticipation as we got closer to the pit and the faraway roars got louder. I've visited T. rex many times, but that roar and the mist from the pit just before you turn the corner, always gets me.


Re-live the roar in this short clip of T. rex in action


Visitors arriving now from all over the world to marvel at the Museum's star attraction won't probably know that our T. rex has recently been absent from the Dinosaurs Gallery for about 5 weeks. This disappearance was due to a serious operation involving a hip replacement, major cosmetic surgery, and some much-needed pit improvements. Well, poor T. rex is after all, about 65 million years old and it's a challenging job frightening Museum visitors day after day.


Perhaps it was my imagination, but as I walked past the noticeably swampier-looking pit, I thought I saw a twinkle in those small, ferocious eyes. I'm sure T. rex is glad to be back in business. (In our busiest weeks T.rex can attract up to 50,000 visitors a week.)


It was engineers Steve Suttle and Martin Kirkby who carried out the highly skilled replacement of T. rex's strained hip joint parts and neck. These T.rex bits had got very worn through, so the new joints and parts mean smoother motion, all the better to scare us with. Technician Rob Lewenstien did the careful cosmetic surgery on the silicone skin to smooth over cuts.


There was also major scenic work done on T. rex's pit by our Display and Conservation team, led by Claire Kelly. The team re-painted and re-defined the ground and water area in the pit and also re-worked the carcass which T. rex sniffs around. Extra foliage, tree stumps and plant stems have been added to get a more authentic swampy habitat. The picture below shows work in progress.


Finishing touches came from the Museum's SFX and Media Tech teams who have improved the lighting and the ambient soundtrack to better show off the pit and create a more atmospheric and dramatic display.


t.rex-Jesmonite-around-carcass.jpg'The project showed off the wide range of skills in the Museum's in-house production teams,' enthused programme manager, Nick Sainton-Clark, 'and the engineering work was extensive but successful, so we shouldn't have to have this kind of closure for the foreseeable future.'


Enjoy the Dinosaur Gallery highlights in our slideshow


Learn about Dinosaurs on our website


Explore our Dino Directory




Click on the images to enlarge them.