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Our Collections

Our Collection| Our Collection Drawers | Visiting Our Collections

Our Collection

Whereas the original CUIC researchers recorded insect information in paper journals matched to a single number associated with the specimens, the contemporary collection maintains all data on labels attached to the insect pin, and also within electronic databases for specialized collections. The collection itself consists of slides containing microscopic insects, the original research journals, dry and pinned specimen collected or donated by students, faculty, and other colleagues. Pinned specimens are stored in glass-topped 'Cornell Drawers.’ Soft-bodied insects such as immature stages (e.g., caterpillars) are stored in ethanol, with smaller vials held in tightly sealed glass jars. At about 50,000 vials, the immatures collection is one of the most comprehensive in the country.

It takes a lot of time to categorize various insect species, analyze and describe their structures, and summarize geographic distributions. For archival storage after study, specimens representing the various species are organized by their evolutionary relationships. Within the 'Cornell Drawers' that house smaller specimens, the various species are placed in individual trays. Many specimens have not been completely 'worked up'; that is they have not been adequately studied by specialists. Usually these are sorted to the level of Family in the taxonomic hierarchy, and held together at the end of each Family until future workers can sort them. Insect diversity is so great that some specimens may sit for 100 years until the appropriate person comes along to study them.

Our Collection Drawers

Below find a visual sample of the modern collection drawers.

1. This full drawer of large longhorn beetles shows development typical of the largest types of insects and how they are stored. There are relatively few species of this size.

2. This drawer of day-flying geometer moths, shows unit trays and how species are kept together by tray. This is the most prevalent form of storage due to the fact that the average insect is only 7 mm long.

3. This is not a drawer, but a single unit tray of ithomiine butterflies, indicating how trays are maintained. You can see the individual specimen labels on the pins under the butterfiles.

4. This is a tray of the European stag beetle, Lucanus cervus, the favorite of Albrecht Durer and most everybody since. The males have the large mandibles, the females the smaller. The variation in mouthparts and size is due to nutritional value of the larval food, and in the case of the sexual dimorphism also genetics.

Visiting Our Collection

Unlike a public museum, the CUIC is a research collection and is not funded for public visitation. The CUIC is maintained to support the identification of insects for New York agriculture and forestry, and specimens are routinely mailed to researchers worldwide to support taxonomic research. Each October, the public can visit the collection during the Department of Entomology's 'Insectapalooza' open house, an event that includes public displays of insects from the Collection, as well as a live insect and spider zoo, and most recently a butterfly conservatory.

Created by acn22
Last modified 2008-11-13 11:09