Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University  

insect systematics

   
Insect Collection

The Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University is home to the largest and fastest growing insect collection in the south central and southwestern United States. At the end of 1999, the collection housed an estimated 1.86 million fully curated specimens. Historically, most of the systematists associated with the collection have concentrated their research efforts on the insect faunas of the southwestern United States and Mexico. This emphasis has continued in recent years and the collection contains extensive holdings from these areas, many of which represent unique ecological zones. Texas A&M has one of the most sustained efforts among university collections to accumulate insect material from Mexico. Texas A&M systematists have participated in numerous cooperative activities with Mexican entomologists and many Mexican entomologists have visited the collection to pursue joint or individual research projects. Recently, Texas A&M systematists and systematists in Mexico have conducted joint workshops on various aspects of the Mexican fauna and on methods for studying insect biodiversity. Opportunities for collaboration between Mexican systematists and Texas A&M personnel in research, collection development and training of students seem virtually unlimited. Some specific areas of strength of the collection are: Coleoptera (especially Chrysomelidae and Curculionidae), Diptera (especially muscoid Diptera), Heteroptera (especially Miridae) and Hymenoptera (especially Chalcidoidea, Braconidae and Ichneumonidae). Special collections of significance include: the Clarence D. Johnson Bruchid Collection (200,000 specimens of adult bruchids and associated parasitoids); the Roy O. and Connie A. Kendall Collection of Lepidoptera (100,000 specimens of adults and larvae with extensive biological data, currently being transferred to TAMU); the William Chamberlain Collection (>100,000 specimens of general insects); the Waste Isolation Pilot Project Collection (over 20,000 specimens from southeastern New Mexico); the Burruss McDaniel Scale Insect and Mite Collection (15,500 slides with library); the P. T. Riherd Collection of Lepidoptera (6,500 specimens of larvae and adults); and the W. S. Creighton Synoptic Collection of Ants (1,606 specimens in 457 species-level taxa).

Collection Facilities
The collection is housed on the second floor of the Minnie Belle Heep Building on the West Campus of Texas A&M University. Space for the collection and associated laboratories and offices is as follows: collection room I (rm. 216), 1,485 sq. ft.; collection room II (rm. 211), 475 sp. ft.; wet storage room, 214 sq. ft.; meeting/reading area, 400 sq. ft.; preparation room, 236 sq. ft.; associated research laboratories, 1543 sq. ft.; and associated offices, 426 sq. ft. The total square footage in the collection and associated rooms is approximately 4,800 sq. ft.

Organization of Collection and Associated Faculty and Staff
The Insect Collection of the Department of Entomology is administered jointly through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. The principal collection staff are: Dr. John D. Oswald (Curator), Mr. Ed Riley (Associate Curator / collection manager), and Ms. Jessica Usener (Collection Assistant). Active faculty closely associated with the collection include John D. Oswald (Assistant Professor), H. R. Burke (Professor & Curator Emeritus), A. Cognato (Assistant Professor), J. C. Schaffner (Professor Emeritus), R. A. Wharton (Professor) and J. B. Woolley (Professor). Others in the TAMU System with systematics interests are Charles Cole (extension entomology [retired])-Thysanoptera; Allen Dean (Research Assistant in pecan entomology)-Araneae; Harry Howell (Senior Research Associate in urban entomology)-Isoptera; John Jackman (Professor and Extension Specialist)-Mordellidae and Buprestidae.

Description of Collection
At the end of 1999, the collection contained approximately 1.86 million specimens, including 1.62 million pinned, 221,000 in alcohol and 27,800 on slides. The collection is composed primarily of insects, but also includes growing collections of mites, ticks, spiders and other terrestrial arthropod groups. The orders of insects are represented approximately as follows: Coleoptera 40% (of insect holdings), Hymenoptera 20%, Heteroptera-Homoptera 14%, Diptera 9%, Lepidoptera 8%, other orders 9%. The largest part of the collection consists of pinned insect specimens stored in unit trays in Cornell-style drawers housed in 48-drawer steel cabinets. The collection has 137 cabinets containing about 6,600 drawers. The arrangement of families and genera within orders follows phylogenetic systems. A computerized, species-level, inventory has been completed for approximately 95% of the collection. A policy of minimum use of fumigant has been adopted in the collection. A separate room is used for storage of specimens in alcohol. Specimens sorted to genus and species are preserved in neoprene-stoppered 4 dram vials in wooden racks. The collection contains approximately 17,400 vials of insects, spiders and ticks. Most of this material is determined to species and the remainder to family level. The spider collection is housed in a separate cabinet and the tick collection is in cotton-stoppered vials in jars. Unsorted samples in alcohol are stored in freezers.

History of the Collection
The Texas A&M University Insect Collection was started by E. D. Sanderson during the period 1902-1904. Separate insect collections were maintained for many years by the Division of Entomology of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and the Department of Entomology of Texas A&M College (now Texas A&M University). The Department had responsibility for teaching and most of its material was accumulated for instructional purposes; however, some research and reference collections were also maintained. In addition to the original Sanderson material, the departmental collection contained specimens purchased from W. S. Blatchley, Orthoptera and Hemiptera collected by V. A. Little and H. G. Johnston, respectively, and a considerable amount of other general material accumulated over the years. The Division collection grew considerably during the 1920's and 1930's, mostly under the supervision of H. J. Reinhard. After World War II the teaching and research activities in entomology at Texas A&M were combined under the present Department of Entomology. This move, made official in 1947, brought together the two insect collections, which had been maintained separately in College Station since their beginnings in the early 1900's. An Experiment Station project was approved in 1948 to support taxonomic research in the Department and to provide for developing and maintaining the collection. H. J. Reinhard was in charge of the project and he began by consolidating and rearranging the two collections which had previously been stored mostly in Schmitt boxes. The specimens were transferred to Cornell-style drawers in steel cabinets and the unit tray system was adopted. The 1950's constituted an active period of expansion of the Texas A&M collection. The help of many specialists was solicited to obtain authoritative identifications and exchanges were made to broaden the geographic and taxonomic scope of the collection. H. J. Reinhard remained in charge of the collection until 1959, at which time this responsibility was assumed by H. R. Burke. At the time of this change, the collection was estimated to contain nearly 300,000 specimens. Heteropterist J. C. Schaffner joined the faculty of entomology as a systematist in 1963. A full-time Assistant Curator (collection manager) was added to the staff in 1975. The collection was moved to its present location in the Heep Center in 1977. Hymenopterists R. A. Wharton and J. B. Woolley joined the systematics faculty in 1981 and 1983, respectively. Edward Riley, the current Assistant Curator, was employed in 1988, and neuropterist J. D. Oswald joined the faculty in 1995. In 2000, molecular systematist Anthony Cognato was added to the systematics faculty, Edward Riley became Associate Curator and Jessica Usener was hired as the collection's first permanent half-time Collection Assistant. Through the efforts of current and past faculty, graduate students and other collection associates, the TAMUIC has developed extensive collections from throughout the southwestern U. S., Mexico and the northern neotropics. In recent years, several significant collections have been added through donations, notably, the Kendall and Johnson collections. Additions to the collection generated by the new faculty added during the 1980's and 1990's has steadily increased the size of the collection and, at an average annual growth rate of 93,000 specimens per year over the last seven years, the Texas A&M University Insect Collection is now in its most active period of expansion since its establishment in the early 1900's.

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Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University  •  Department of Entomology
 412 Heep Center, TAMU 2475 College Station, TX 77843-2475 • (979) 845-2516
Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University