Big and tiny, scary and spiny, colorful and lively, dangerous and harmless: No matter what kind of bug, there’s a good chance it’s stored — in alcohol, in amber, or on a slide — in the entomology collection at the Kansas University Biodiversity Research Institute, housed at the Public Safety Building, 1501 Crestline Drive.
Started in 1870, the collection features nearly 5 million insects from Kansas and around the globe. The institute offers arranged tours of the collection, and Jennifer Thomas, collections manager, encouraged people with questions about bugs they find around their house to “bring it here, and we’ll tell you what it is.”
Thomas highlighted some of the distinguished insects in the collection:
They may not be the prettiest or most pleasant to encounter, but the longevity of the cockroach deserves some respect.
“They’ve been around since the dinosaurs roamed the earth,” Thomas said, as she showed off their collection of wood cockroaches. “And they’ve survived ever since.”
The cockroach is also one of the oldest insects in Kansas and can be found all over the state in various sizes, she said.
They’re referred to as “kissing bugs,” but their bite is anything but loving or tender.
The bugs, indigenous to Central and South America, carry a parasite that can cause Chagas disease in humans. Experts say the parasite is transmitted through the insect’s waste, which it deposits on the skin when it bites and enters the bloodstream when the host scratches the resulting itch.
Those who get infected could suffer a wide range of maladies, such as a severe swelling at the bite location, heart and digestive problems. However, many who contract Chagas are not symptomatic, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
One of the rare insects native to Kansas in the collection is the American burying beetle. On the endangered species list, the beetle can still be found in Kansas, feeding on the carcasses of small mammals.
Though this beetle could once be found all over the country, it’s found in just a few select locations now. In 1997, this beetle was rediscovered living in Kansas, Thomas said.
At a length of about a half of a millimeter, and barely visible to the human eye, “feather-winged” beetles can be found in the entomology collection glued to the tip of a paper marker. Without a microscope, the beetles look like nothing more than a speck of dirt.
Megasoma, or rhinoceros beetles, are some of the largest insects in the world. Some at the KU collection are about the size of a cellphone, featuring their trademark beak, which resembles the trunk of a rhinoceros. These insects are mostly found in tropical regions but can also be found in Africa.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.