As part of the Museum's public service, we run a free object identification service. If you have a natural history object you would like our help in identifying, it would be really helpful to us if you could take a photograph of it and email it to us in advance. Photos should be properly focused, well-lit, and include a ruler for scale. Please note that there are a lot of legal restrictions on what you can and can't bring to the Museum, so please do email in the first instance if you can.  

  • Email our experts in Palaeontology, Mineralogy and Petrology at earth@oum.ox.ac.uk
  • Email our experts in Zoology, including Entomology, at life@oum.ox.ac.uk
  • Give us a ring: 01865 272 950

You can also use our Learning Zone to find out more about insect identification, and try and identify a particular bug for yourself.




We received the following photographs of an insect that our experts identified as an elephant hawk caterpillar —  a curious-looking and completely harmless creature that is actually quite common in the UK during the spring.

The striking eye patterns of the elephant hawk moth are actually a defence mechanism, allowing the caterpillars to mimic larger animals, like snakes, and deter predators.

If you come across this species in your garden, our advice is to leave it be for a couple of weeks, and wait for it to turn into a fantastically colourful moth!


Deilephila elpenor with head retracted
elephant hawkmoth caterpillar
Elephant hawkmoth, Deilephila elpenor