Insect collection open to the public for International Museum Day - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Insect collection open to the public for International Museum Day

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Posted: Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:15 pm

Antenna. Legs bearing claws. Compound eyes. Feathery, scaly and leathery wings.

They’re on display by the hundreds of thousands in the Frank F. Hasbrouck Insect Collection at Arizona State University, a little-known amassment of as many as 700,000 preserved insects that’s hosting an open house Friday.

“We have a large collection of beetles, and a spectacular collection of moths. There’s a walking stick that’s probably close to a foot long, and a big rhinoceros Scarab beetle. We have a specimen of the largest butterfly species,” says Nico Franz, associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and curator of the insect collection.

The facility opens at 10 a.m. in observance of International Museum Day. Most of its insects are from the Southwest but some were collected in other North American regions and Mexico. Some are 100 years old or more.

But not many people know about the bugs, perfectly pinned in see-through cases.

For one, says Franz, the collection has grown slowly in the shadow of the monolithic University of Arizona Insect Collection, which houses approximately 2 million insect specimens.

And its meticulous champion, Frank Hasbrouck, the man for whom the collection is named, passed away in the 1980s.

“He came to ASU in 1962. When he came, we had about 50,000 specimens, and by the time he passed, it was easily eight or ten times that much,” says Franz, who took on the role of curator in August 2011.

“The collection had been sort of dormant, I think, for 15 or 25 years; however, we are well staffed for the first time in a long time. We’re collecting specimens again; we’re growing.”

He and his team are working to log the collection’s specimens in a virtual museum called The Southwest Collections of Arthropods Network. Funded by the National Science Foundation, it will digitize images and data for 750,000 arthropod specimens from ASU and nine other institutions.

They’re also eager to advance what is known about our state’s insect life.

“As a biologist, I look at Arizona as a hotspot for biodiversity. Some might think, ‘What can occur here? It’s a desert.’ But if you like insects and insect diversity, Arizona is, hands down, the place to be.”

Earlier this spring, on a trip to the Mogollon Rim with a taxonomist pal, Franz uncovered what he thinks is a new genus of beetle and one or two “described” — or formally noted by other scientists but still new — species of beetle beneath the bark of a Ponderosa pine.

He says another colleague who works with ants discovers about one new species per year, and recently made an “ants of Arizona” checklist that ticks off 30-40 new species.

“It’s not a huge discovery on the scale of what you can find in the tropics, but you can find new species near Payson. Not only do we not know what’s here, but many of the things that we do know are here are not described or properly classified.”

At Friday’s open house, visitors will be able to view pinned insects. The curatorial staff and students will answer questions and tell about the work they’re doing.

“I have teachers contact us every once in a while and say they would like to bring their class, and we have had two Skype sessions now with second-grade classes in Glendale, showing them the collection and answering questions that way,” says Franz.

He expects the collection to open to the public for special events three or four times per year. In the meantime, he says, “If people are interested, our doors are open.”

The collection is on the ground floor of the Life Sciences Building A-Wing on the ASU campus in Tempe. Franz says they plan to stay open until 8 p.m. Friday but may close sooner if foot traffic is slow; you may want to call after 5 p.m. to make sure the doors will be open when you arrive. Reach the staff at (480) 965-2850 or

If you go

What: See thousands of bugs at The Hasbrouck Insect Collection open house at Arizona State University.

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; you may want to call ahead after 5 p.m. to make sure they’re open.

Where: On the ground floor of the Life Sciences Building A-Wing, Room LSA 131, on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe

Cost: Free

Information: (480) 965-2850 or

Get in on International Museum Day

Numerous cultural facilities around the state offer deals to mark the day. Among them:

• Free birthday party 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa. Arizona’s “dinosaur museum” celebrates its 35th birthday with cake and ice cream in the lobby and an outdoor block party with a live band, bounce houses, crafts, games, food vendors and prizes from Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange.

• Two-for-one admission 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa. The colorful, hands-on museum for families will host an art-making activity with iPads and highlight master artists through creative make-and-take activities.

• Two-for-one admission 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix. The Center has the largest concentration of Native American petroglyphs in the Phoenix area; you can see more than 1,500 petroglyphs made between 500 and 7,000 years ago on a 1/4-mile trail.

• Free admission 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, where “100 Years, 100 Ranchers” opens Friday. A Centennial Legacy Project by photographer Scott Baxter, the large-format, monochromatic photographs capture people who have been ranching in Arizona since 1912 or earlier.

Information: For a list of all nearby museums offering International Museum Day activities or specials, visit Central Arizona Museum Association at

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