Collection History

James Kruse
James Kruse, Interim Curator of Insects 2000-2003

The Insect Collection is the museum’s youngest. It was started with NSF support (DEB-9981915) in the year 2000 under direction of interim Curator James Kruse and built from three large accessions of Alaskan specimens: ~ 100,000 specimens of Alaskan aquatic insects (Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, etc.) stored in glass vials and preserved in ethanol, ~30,000 biting fly specimens (mostly Culicidae and Simuliidae) on pins and in vials of alcohol collected mostly by K. Sommerman during the Northern Biting Fly survey of 1947-1956, and ~75,000 pinned terrestrial insect specimens collected between 1940 and the mid 1970s, mostly by Richard Washburn, for a US Department of Agriculture collection in Palmer, Alaska.

This last collection has the greatest taxonomic breadth of the three with specimens from all orders found in Alaska, including some rarities (e.g. Archeognatha). Smaller subcollections are also present, including 24 Schmidt boxes of primarily bee (Apidae) voucher specimens.

These accessions were in cabinets dating to the age of the specimens themselves. The majority of Alaskan insect taxa are currently missing from the collection (so we are eagerly seeking donations, especially of material already identified). A species-level inventory of the collection has been completed. Most taxa requiring greater technical skill to collect and prepare, such as the majority of small (<5mm) wasps and beetles, are greatly underrepresented in the collection. This generalization does not apply, however, to the biting fly specimens in the accession of K. M. Sommerman’s collection – she was meticulous in mounting with minuten pins very large series of well prepared fly specimens.

Dry, pinned insect specimens were stored in the collections range in 12 aging metal cabinets placed inside the compact mobile storage system. These cabinets held 150 wooden glass-topped drawers of a make and dimensions no longer manufactured. Specimens were stored in hard-bottomed unit trays inside these drawers.

The wet specimens, stored in glass vials containing ethanol, were held in cardboard trays inside cardboard boxes that were stacked on top of the dry specimens. All wet specimens have since been moved to the museum’s new alcohol storage room onto open metal shelving.

Major Donations Cataloged to Date

USDA Palmer Research Station [1915 - 1988] >13,600 specimens cataloged,

USDA Agricultural Research Service, Subarctic station [2002-2011] > 30,000 specimens cataloged

USFWS Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge [2003-present], >13,000 specimens cataloged

Dominique Collet private collection [1990-2009] >13,000 specimens cataloged