A Bug’s Afterlife: Revitalizing the UA Insect Collection

Because of the lack of space in the current cabinets, many insects in the UA Insect Collection share cramped quarters. Many butterflies are tiled, or placed with their wings overlapping to save space. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)
Because of the lack of space in the current cabinets, many insects in the UA Insect Collection share cramped quarters. Many butterflies are tiled, or placed with their wings overlapping to save space. (Photo by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews)

Let the mind's eye travel, as a fly might, having just wandered in from the outdoor desert air, up the sweeping, terraced stairwell that leads to the fourth floor of the Forbes building on the University of Arizona campus.

Tucked away in the department of entomology at the end of a long corridor is a crowded collection room, overflowing with an impressive assembly of cabinets, handmade in the 1950s and painted the period's favored shade of avocado green.

If you opened the cabinets you would find countless insect specimens, carefully organized and nestled side-by-side in over-crowded trays, identified to the species-level and diligently labeled for future reference. The wings of many butterflies overlap, for want of space to spread them apart. The beetles' legs are interlaced, and the flies rest nose-to-nose.

Many of them have been here for more than 50 years.

This is the UA Insect Collection, or UAIC, with more than 2 million specimens representing a substantial portion of the Southwest's known insect life.

Wendy Moore, assistant professor of insect systematics in the department of entomology and curator of the UAIC, recently received two grants worth more than $2 million to revitalize the collection, as well as an endowment to support research by visiting scholars.

"The majority of our specimens are from this region," said Moore. "Sometimes faculty members will conduct research in exotic places such as Australia or Africa and bring some specimens back, but most of our specimens are from the Southwest."

The UAIC's substantial collection of Southwestern insect specimens makes it an important research resource among North America's insect collections.

Read the rest of this July 11 article from UANews at the link below.

Date released: 
Jul 17 2012
Contact: 
Wendy Moore