Skip navigation

What's new at the Museum

11 Posts tagged with the insects tag
0

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.

Insects-at-Streets-of-Brighton-crop.jpgface-painting-opal-1000.jpg

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.

pond-dipping-1000.jpgladybird-1000-crop.jpg

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).

 

Naturalist Badge-004-04052012crop.jpg

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

 

2

The Museum's Sensational Butterflies exhibition is definitely the fluttery flavour of the week. Not only has an incredibly rare half-female-half-male butterfly hatched in the exhibition's butterfly house very recently, Sir David Attenborough also made a very special appearance there today.

dual-sex-butterfly.jpg

The rare dual-sex butterfly recently hatched in our Sensational Butterflies exhibition is a great mormon, Papilio memnon, from Asia. One half is female, with paler colours and blue, red and tortoiseshell flecks. The other half is male and is darker.

The discovery of this unusual dual-sex butterfly - such creatures are called gynandromorphs - caused huge excitement in the Sensational Butterflies exhibition when it was originally spotted. Gynandromorphy happens very occasionally across a range of species, from spiders to crabs. The word comes from gyn which is Greek for female and andro which is Greek for male.

 

Luke Brown (below right), manager of the exhibition's butterfly house says:

luke-gynandromorph.jpg

 

'Pure bilateral gynandromorphs are incredibly rare. I have only ever come across two in my whole career. So you can understand why I was bouncing off of the walls when I learned that a stunning half male, half female bilateral gynandromorph had emerged in the puparium at this year’s Sensational Butterflies exhibition. Many permanent butterfly exhibitions will go through their entire existence without ever seeing one of these rarities.’

 

The gynandromorph butterfly, however, may not be around for much longer. These species, sadly, only live for two to three weeks.

 

Read the news story and learn more about the gynandromorph discovery at Sensational Butterflies

 

Our other exciting and famous visitor to Sensational Butterflies today, which some lucky schoolchildren were lucky to catch a glimpse of, was Sir David Attenborough. He was here to help launch the Big Butterfly Count project organised by the Butterfly Conservation group which asks us to help record butterfly sightings from 16 to 31 July.

david-girlsbutterfly.jpg

Children from The Russell School in Richmond with Sir David Attenborough are charmed by a swallowtail at the Big Butterfly Count launch in our butterfly house this morning.

'Butterflies are one of the stars of the British countryside. Summer just wouldn’t be summer without them' says Sir David

 

It's the second year running for the Big Butterfly Count and last year more than 10,000 people took part with 189,000 butterflies counted This year's results may help reveal the impact of our record-breaking spring weather.

flowers-outside-butterfly-house-sign.jpg

Our Sensational Butterflies exhibition with its butterfly house full of 100s of live exotic butterflies and moths is highly recommended for a summer holiday visit. Open until 11 September 2011. Tickets £3.50.

moon-moth-2.jpg

As you approach the butterfly house marvel at the glorous outdoor garden (above) where you can learn butterfly-attracting tips for your own garden. Inside the butterfly house, who knows what else may hatch in the coming months? You might even catch sight of the extraordinary Madagascar moon moth (right). But remember when you visit, it's hot, hot, hot in the house, 'cos that's the way the butterfly beauties like it.

 

Find out about our Sensational Butterflies exhibition

See some exhibition highlights

Buy Sensational Butterflies tickets online

 

The nationwide OPAL Bugs Count also asks you to look for butterflies, in particular the small tortoiseshell butterfly. There are a humungous 380,041 bugs counted so far at the time of writing, but it grows larger every minute!

 

Learn more about the butterfly life cycle

More photos taken at the Sensational Butteflies exhibition this week. Select images to enlarge them

david-child-butterfly.jpg

david-kids-butterfly.jpg

dual-sex-butterfly-hand.jpg
sensational-butterflies-outdoor-garden-tall.jpg

butterflies-outdoor-garden-pots.jpg

flower-pots-butterfly-house.jpg

0

On a summer’s day in the Wildlife Garden and the Museum grounds, you might find several hundred different kinds of insects. If you count the individuals, including the honey bees and ants, then maybe thousands. Who knows, they might even outnumber the daily throng of human visitors to our galleries and exhibitions.

 

Indeed, there are more species of insect in the world than any other  group - experts have named over 1 million. (Some entomologists even  estimate 10 million species.) And not a day goes by for us humans, I’m  sure, without an encounter with at least one or many of them.

ladybirds-1000.jpg

Discover insect life this weekend in the Wildlife Garden as you  explore the meadows by the ponds. There are displays, activities and  tours and also talks in the nearby Darwin Dentre to join.

Come along on Saturday and Sunday, 2 and 3 July, to Insect Weekend in the Wildlife Garden and Darwin Centre and meet some of this multitudinous and diverse group. Find out about the buzzers, flutterers and crawlers from bees to beetles and damelflies to butterflies and moths.

 

On both days, there will be lots of fun activities for all ages, and many displays to explore.

Bat-Festival-A.-Fure133-image.jpgbat-festival-garden-pond-1000.jpg
What will you see at Insect Weekend under the microscope? And tread carefully by the ponds, froglets are about. Select images to enlarge

Recent sightings in the garden includes lots of butterflies, from large white to comma, holly blue and speckled wood varieties.

 

Tiny froglets and toadlets are emerging from the ponds, so you'll need to tread carefully in the grasslands by the ponds. And don't forget the hundreds of tropical butterflies to see next door on the East lawn in our Sensational Butterflies exhibition.

 

Another highlight of the weekend event on Sunday will be botany expert Roy Vickery's tour of the garden about the 'forgotten uses of wild plants'. The 30-minute tours start around 1.45 and 3.15.

spider-web-1000.jpg

Spiders are distant relatives of insects but that doesn't seem to bother them when it comes to their dietary requirements. Not sure what would escape this spider web photographed recently in the Wildlife Garden!

Visitors will get an insight into the insect diets of other creatures like bats, spiders and frogs. Apparently, at last month's Bat Festival in the Wildlife Garden, a lttle pipestrelle  bat spent nearly an hour flying over and around the main pond, in  pursuit of midges and other small insects. It caused a bit of a stir! And the Wildlife Garden team will be doing a bat survey on Saturday.

 

Max Barclay's Beetlemania talk and his collection highlights on Saturday are sure to be popular and another talk on Sunday, Caught in a Trap, will reveal the secrets of collecting insects. Both free talks are in the Attenborough Studio at 12.30 and 14.30.

 

Find out about the Wildlife Garden online

What is an insect?

Insects (from the Latin insectum) are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax, and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae.

 

Find out more about insects and spiders on our Nature Online pages

 

Every day we get enquiries about identifying strange looking insects on our online Identification forum

 

Join the OPAL Bugs Count survey - an amazing 204,205 bugs have already been counted so far.

 

Read the Bug Count launch news story and find out the 6 minibeasts to look out for

0

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.

Hunting-in-long-grass-1000.jpgAraneus-diadematus-1000.jpg

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

Scarlet_malachite_Chris-Gibson-1000.jpg

 

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


0

39706_0019x1000w.jpglittle-boy-700.jpg

Yesterday, we welcomed the first young visitors to a special media preview of our Sensational Butterflies exhibition, opening officially next week on Tuesday 12 April. Select images to enlarge them

Sensational-Butterflies-house-tall-1000.jpg

 

Children from the east London Nightingale Primary School (above) got the exclusive chance to enjoy 100s of gorgeous live butterflies getting settled in their newly-decorated butterfly house, which has been magically built and fully foliaged in 5 weeks. Some of the flying beauties even settled on the children, much to their delight, as you can see here. (Actually in the exhibition you're not really supposed to touch the butterflies, but sometimes it's hard to avoid being landed on.)

 

The first batch of about 600 butterflies was released into the house last week and around 1,200 pupae were put in the hatcheries. Today, butterfly house manager Luke Brown tells me: 'There are now about 1,500 butterflies inside. And more will arrive each week throughout the summer. It was a great day for the media event, warm and sunny, and the house is looking fab. The butterflies love it when it's hot and the sun shines outside the house. It makes them much more active inside.'

 

There are 30 butterfly and moth species in the exhibition, but this may increase through the summer months depending on what deliveries we get.

 

Find out about the Sensational Butterflies exhibition

 

Read the blog about some of the new features in the butterfly house this year

 

Read the latest news about the butterfly exhibition

Butterfly-release--luke-30-March.jpg

Luke Brown, the butterfly house manager, releases the first wave of beautiful butterflies in the house this year
0

It seems like only a week ago that the front lawn outside the Museum was a mudbath. But now as I write, thanks to sunny dry spells, we have the roof on the butterfly house frame. And work is firmly underway for its metamorphosis into a fully-foliaged and delightfully decorated home for the first live butterflies arriving at the end of the month.

 

Our Sensational Butterflies exhibition opens to the public on 12 April and tickets are on sale now.

Dryas-iulia-Julia-butterfly-1000.jpg

Julia butterfly, Dryas iulia, one of the unusual species coming to Sensational Butterflies. These bright orange beauties have been spotted drinking tears from caiman eyes in Brazil. They are among a few butterflies in the world to do this.

I asked Rob, who's supervising the building work, how it's going: 'The main challenge is the weather – we basically have to turn a muddy field into an exhibition that will take 1000s of people walking over its floor surface, without it turning back into a muddy field again! It’s always a challenge, and every year we tinker with our ideas. The whole exhibition takes 4 to 5 weeks to build. Being a  tropical environment inside the house means that its humid, and the flowers and plants in there need loads of watering every day, which is really the worst thing you can do to a floor which was recently wet mud.'

 

Rob also told me that the butterfly house is actually an agricultural building, the same farmers use to grow crops of tomatoes or flowers. But the material it’s made from is a type of plastic that’s very flame-resistant, this is why it looks different from a normal agricultural building, which would just be covered in polythene.

mud-lawn.jpgbutterfly-house-frame.jpg
The race is on: Turning a muddy field into a beautiful butterfly house and garden must be done in 4 to 5 weeks

It's the fourth year running for the Museum's ever-popular outdoor summer exhibition and this time it's all about the sensory world of butterflies. We'll get to find out what it's like actually being a butterfly and experience things from their perspective as we explore five different sensory zones in the butterfly house.

 

There will be lots of fun things to do indoors - we have no outside play park this year - like touching a real cocoon, crawling through a chrysalis, and even sniffing your way around tropical plants. New additions to the house include the intriguing-sounding butterfly puddle display and the chrysalis crawl-through tunnel.

 

The outdoor garden will have a lot to live up to on last year - it was the envy of the everyone here at the Museum by mid-summer - and will again bustle with window boxes, garden plants and tips for attracting butterflies.

 

So to the beauties of the show. On 30 March, about 600 live sensational butterflies will be released in their new home for the exhibition's opening, along with 1200 pupae. Exciting species to watch out for in the house will be the noisy wing-snapping Cracker butterfly (below right), the Julia butterfly (above) which has been seen drinking tears from caiman eyes in South America, and massive Atlas moths (below left).

Atlas-Butterfly-House-1000.jpg

 

Species to look out for at Sensational Butterflies

Left: Is it a fern? Is it a spider? Nope, it's the Atlas moth, the largest moth species in the world.  Image Neil Gale, Magic of Butterflies House

Hamadryas-feronia--cut-out-2.jpg

 

Right: What's the noisiest butterfly in the world? Probably the Cracker butterfly, Hamadryas feronia. You might hear some snapping their wings at potential predators on your visit.

 

Select the images to enlarge.

0

Although the gates of the Wildlife Garden are now closed to regular visitors, winter is a busy time for the garden's team. Caroline, the garden's manager, gives us some festive news as the snow was falling in the recent cold spell.

 

'By mid-winter, when all fruits and nuts have been removed by birds and squirrels or fallen and collected by smaller animals, it is time to prune and lay hedges and to coppice small trees and shrubs such as hazel, and willow.

wildlife-garden-snow2010.jpg

The view of the Museum's Waterhouse building from the Wildlife Garden's frozen pond

'The cut wood is used for making woven fences around the meadow. We will also be planting small hawthorn and blackthorn shrubs (whips), to thicken up our new hedges.

 

'When the ground is freezing we retreat indoors (to our shed-come-office below) to input data of species recorded during the previous year.

 

'Observations last summer included this colourful longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata (below left) photographed by one of our visitors, Mark Mansfield, in the garden’s meadow, during Open Garden Squares Weekend in June.

footsteps-snow-wildlife-garden.jpg

longhorn-beetle-600.jpg

'Other new insect sightings in the Wildlife Garden last year included the small copper butterfly Lycaena phlaeas and 5 moth species, including Elachista obliquella which hasn't been previously recorded elsewhere in Middlesex.

 

'In November, the Wildlife Garden was awarded the Princess Alice Countess of Athlone Award for the Environment by the Brighter Kensington and Chelsea Scheme.

 

'The gates to the garden will open again in April. In the meantime, the garden is open by arrangement, and if you would like a winter visit please enquire at the Information desk inside the Museum. As you can see from the footprints in the snow pictured above, there is still wildlife activity even on the most wintry days!'

DSCF0006.JPG

The Wildlife Garden 'office' - a warm retreat when it's freezing outside

0

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.

S'warm-pointers-2.jpg

'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.

S'warm-take-positions-front-lawn.jpg

S'warmers-in-front-building2-.jpg

S'warm-pointing.jpg

S'warmers-flowers.jpg

S'warmers-flapping.jpg

S'warm-procession.jpg

S'warmes-hands-flipped.jpg

S'warm-lying-down-3.jpg

S'warm-wildlife-garden.jpg

S'warmer-wildlife-garden.jpg

S'warmer-solitary.jpg

0

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.

Rhinoceros-cockroach-©-NHMPL-800.jpg
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.

 

Giant-leaf-bush-cricket-©-NHMPL-800.jpg
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.

white-witch-moth-background-800-flipped.jpg

 

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.
1

The big buzz

Posted by Rose Jun 30, 2010

bee-tree.jpg

Hot news from the Wildlife Garden is that our bee tree is now humming with a new swarm of bees which was introduced about a month ago.

 

Caroline, the garden's manager, told me she's been waiting to see how the bees got on before telling everyone. Actually, they are doing really well and will be a star attraction at the garden's Yellow Book Day this Sunday, 4 July.

 

So 'what's a bee tree exactly?' I hear Pooh bear mumbling in my ear. It's a bbeehive-wildlife-garden-1.jpgee hive that's been cut into an 8-foot high ash tree trunk, pictured left. There are now about 15,000 bees in the hive which also houses eggs, young bees and honey. You can find out more about our bee tree at the event on Sunday. A word of advice, when you visit it, open the bark doors very carefully. And make sure to close them when you've had a look, as bees like the dark.

Another highlight of Sunday's event is the chance to meet our resident beekeeper, Dr Luke Dixon. Luke is an expert in urban beekeeping and helps look after the garden's 2 private beehives, which are also new this year and doing well. He will be holding 2 sessions at 12.30 and 14.00 and visitors can don the protective beekeeping clothing to have a look inside the hives.

 

There may be some Wildlife Garden honey to sample too, yummy!

beehive-wildlife-garden-2.jpg

 

Other activities on Sunday include pond-dipping and a guide to the garden's native plants. There will be stalls with refreshments and wild flower plants for sale.

 

By the way, did you know that Melissa is Greek for honeybee?


Check out the Museum's Wildlife Garden

 

If you're interested in beekeeping, have a look at the Beekeepers Association website for some handy hints

 

Find out more about honeybees on our honeybees webpages

 

Thanks to Matt for the bee tree image and to Luke Dixon and Kristian Buus for the recent Wildlife Garden beehive images. Click on the images to enlarge them.

2

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?

leaf-insect-1000.jpg
'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.

 

Discuss insects in our popular bug forum

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.