I have always liked insects and in particular I enjoy beetles. I find their diversity endlessly fascinating. I started collecting insects when I was in high school in the late 1970's. I amassed a small collection of a couple hundred specimens. Then I went of to college and didn't think about them for a number of years. When I dug the boxes out to storage I found that beetles liked my beetle collection as much as I did. All of the specimens had in fact been put through a beetle biomass recycling program, which is to say they were consumed by dermestid beetles and turned to beetle poo. Such is the economy of nature.
But to be honest, birds consumed much of my time and attention. When we moved to Washington in 1992 I spent most of my time traveling from one end of the state to the other trying to see as many birds as I could and learning about the natural history of the Pacific Northwest. I didn't have time or the resources as to seriously collect insects.
Then in on August 4, 1998, Emily was born. All of the sudden I no longer had the time to go bird watching the way I had prior to her birth. With a readjustment how my time was allocated I began to think more about insects. I realized that I could collect a specimen, mount it, and tuck it away with a fairly small time commitment and later when time permitted, I could sit down and figure what they all were.
So it began. I entered the first specimen into a database that I created for my collection. A seven spotted lady beetle. Two days shy of 17 years later I collected the 10,000th specimen, a crawling water beetle.
Crawling water beetles are one of my favorite beetles. They have large expanded plates where their rear legs attached to their bodies. These plates are for holding little bubbles of air. By doing this they can stay underwater for extended periods of time. Natures little scuba divers. Here is a good photo of one showing the bubble.
Here are a few statistics of my insect collection.
- Of the 10,081, approximately 8000 are beetles.
- I have representatives of 85 of the 131 beetle families known to occur in North America.
- Approximately 90% of the beetles are identified to genus.
- Approximately 50% of those are identified to species.
- 79 counties are represented from every continent except Australia, all collected as interceptions from international cargo entering the United States.
- 17 different states represented.
When I set up my database I figured I would only need 5 digits for the numbering system. At the rate I'm going I should get no where near 99999. My insect collection is also the primary reason I don't update this blog more than I do! With that, I have some insects to sort out!