Like most people, I don’t find insects particularly interesting, but I thought I’d attend a West Campus-scheduled Cornell Insect Collection Tour on Sunday, September 25 with my SA Erin! The Cornell University Insect Collection is located in Comstock Hall and is one of the world’s biggest insect collections. As you will see from the myriad photos that are to follow, I really enjoyed myself. I saw so many beautiful insects and learned about methods of insect preservation.
One of the first organisms we were shown was water bugs! To give you an idea of how big these guys were, I’d say that the boxes all the insects are displayed in are about 18” by 12”.
Here is a close-up of the collection’s largest water bug, Lethocerus grandis, which in the photo above is in the bottom row, second from the right. I’ve also provided a photo of it when it’s taken out of its box and flipped upside down—you can really tell how humongous it is relative to a human hand (Erin’s)! As you can see, the insects are displayed by having a pin pushed through their bodies so that they are actually mounted in the air above the styrofoam-like padding in the boxes.
Then we were shown Goliathus goliatus, a species of enormous beetles; they range in length from about two to four inches and can be found in Africa.
I’m no neat freak, but I definitely appreciated the organization of all these insects — they’re placed together by species in nice, white, uniform boxes with typed words denoting their genus, species, and area of origin. Here’s how some entomologists used to store and display their specimens:
This is absolutely crazy! Not only are you barely able to see the specimens within the jars, but you also cannot remove them from the jars. The insects have been in the jars for so long that over time many of them have stuck to the jars’ glass surfaces and may fall apart if you attempt to extract them.
Speaking of preservation, here is a photo of the jars (containing either ethanol or isopropanol) that contemporary entomologists place their specimens in to kill and preserve them before they can be spread and pinned:
Next are these beauties, Erinnyis ello, moths native to North and South America. They have these pretty gray and black stripes on them that remind me of zebras.
I also really liked these grasshoppers because of their pretty pink wings. Some of them come in all-black, like the one on the right below, which looks super cool!
Here are more stunning, bright pink wings. However, these specimens are locusts, not grasshoppers:
In the words of Kay Thompson’s Maggie Prescott from Funny Face, “THINK PINK!!!” (Shout-out to all my fellow Audrey Hepburn fans! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiS-hvQUbDE)
Scorpions aren’t insects; they’re actually arachnids, which differ from insects in a variety of ways, including number of body segments, type of eyes, and number of legs. Anyhow, I thought y’all would still like to see them:
Courtesy of Jacqueline Quach
A few more scorpions, a tarantula, a centipede (the collection’s largest), and a grasshopper:
Most of you already know that Vladimir Nabokov was a professor at Cornell, but you probably didn’t know that he was an avid lepidopterist (butterfly collector). According to Erin, Cornell does have his butterfly collection, but we were unable to find it that day. Instead, we got to see these butterflies, which are without a doubt the most beautiful specimens I saw Sunday. I just love their color and symmetry.
Last but not least are bees, which as you should have gathered from the title, don’t come in only yellow and black! According to Erin, they also come in blue:
I also saw some other bees that looked green:
And I’d call these ones “Rasta bees,” because they’ve got a green, red, and yellow-ish sheen:
I apologize for the glare, but the display boxes have a glass covering, so it’s inevitable.
Finally, here’s the largest bee that’s ever been found in the world (and it’s not a queen)!
Well, folks, that’s all I have picture-wise, but if you’re interested in checking out Cornell’s Insect Collection, I should tell you that they don’t have open public visits—but do not despair, for Insectapalooza is coming up! Insectapalooza is an annual event in which you can see and touch live specimens (insects, arachnids, etc.)…I hear there’s a face-painting station where you can get an insect painted on your face!
This year’s Insectapalooza is in Comstock Hall on Saturday, October 22, from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. Admission is $3/person, but kids 3 years old and younger can get in for free.