See millions of six-legged specimens at Ohio State’s Museum of Biological Diversity
“Are these alive?” asks 6-year-old Max while observing a tray full of motionless wasps pinned inside white boxes.
“No, nothing here is alive,” replies Luciana Musetti, curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection in the Museum of Biological Diversity on the Ohio State University’s west campus. Musetti welcomes the public – especially curious children – to check out the more than 3.5 million specimens in the collection, ranked among the best in North America.
- See millions of six-legged specimens at Ohio State’s Museum of Biological Diversity
“Are they real?” Max asks.
“They are real,” Musetti says. “Nothing here is plastic.”
“Ewww, they’re gross!” concludes Max.
“If you want to study science, you have to get over the ‘eww’ factor,” assures Musetti. “Insects are awesome and beautiful.”
During our 30-minute visit, Musetti, who studies parasitoid wasps at Ohio State, challenged my children’s thinking about the six-legged creatures that scamper about our planet.
Rosie, 8, learned that butterflies come in all shapes, sizes and colors and that some insects look like leaves and rocks, which protect them from predators. She also learned that some beetles are pretty and resemble gems.
They learned about the benefits of dung beetles, too. “They lay their eggs in dung and the larvae eats the dung,” Musetti says. “If it weren’t for dung beetles, we’d be up to our ears in dung.”
The museum opened in 1992 and contains seven collections that represent more than 9 million specimens, such as ticks, butterflies, beetles, shells and fungi – some stuck with pins to foam and cork, others preserved in alcohol and others tacked on microscope slides. The insect collection is named after Charles A. Triplehorn, who curated the collection for 31 years, beginning in 1962.
The museum is part of the university’s Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. It has one of the largest collections of audio recordings of animal sounds in the country and a collection of tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) that dates back to 1837.
Scientists and students learn about evolution and biological diversity by studying the collections, which are continually expanding.
Musetti, who has a PhD in entomology from Purdue University, specializes in the taxonomy and systematics of parasitoid wasps – a natural enemy of stinkbugs which have been wreaking havoc on suburbanites. The wasps lay eggs in the legs of stink bugs, and the larvae consume their host legs before the stink bugs can hatch. They’re seen as biological control agents of the invasive and destructive stink bugs.
Before leaving the museum, I signed a guestbook that contained signatures dating to 1939. It felt like I was signing a historic document.
My kids ended their visit by creating what Musetti calls “bugs in goo.” Using tweezers, they put several Japanese beetles in a vial of hand sanitizer. They took them home and played that they were scientists, just like Musetti.
An annual open house is held in February – this year drawing more than 2,000 visitors, making it one of the college’s largest outreach events. The public is welcome to visit the museum for free anytime during the year. However, because it’s a research and teaching facility, visits should be arranged in advance with a collection curator or through the museum’s website at osuc.osu.edu/visitors.html.
The Museum of Biological Diversity is located at 1315 Kinnear Rd., room 1220, where there is visitor parking at designated signs, however you must pay to park on the OSU campus. Purchase an hourly pass at the pay-to-park machine at 1110 Kinnear Rd.