A library full of bugs

Inside Gardner Hall at North Carolina State University sits a library full of millions of insects in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Collection manager Robert Blinn takes us inside the insect museum to explain why these specimens are so valuable.

TRANSCRIPT

INSIDE GARDNER HALL AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY SITS A LIBRARY FULL OF MILLIONS OF INSECTS IN A VARIETY OF COLORS, SHAPES, AND SIZES.

COLLECTION MANAGER ROBERT BLINN TAKES US INSIDE THE INSECT MUSEUM TO EXPLAIN WHY THESE SPECIMENS ARE SO VALUABLE.

THESE ARE SPECIMENS OF A FAMILY KNOWN AS CERCOPIDS, OR THE FROGHOPPERS, RELATED TO LEAFHOPPERS AND CICADAS.

IF CRAWLING OR FLYING OR HOPPING BUGS BUG YOU...

A LOT OF THESE ARE TROPICAL.

THESE ONES HERE ARE FROM BOLIVIA AND COLOMBIA.

YOU CAN SEE THE LABEL THERE.

...YOU WON'T BE COMFORTABLE HERE.

THERE ARE 1.2 MILLION BUGS.

IT'S A STOREHOUSE OF BIODIVERSITY.

THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE IN NORTH CAROLINA WHERE WE HAVE RECORDS OF THE INSECT BIODIVERSITY OF THE STATE.

THESE ROOMS ON THE TOP FLOOR OF GARDNER HALL ON NC STATE'S CAMPUS ARE OFFICIALLY CALLED NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY'S INSECT MUSEUM.

SO EVERY SPECIMEN BEARS A LABEL WHICH TELLS YOU WHERE AND WHEN IT WAS COLLECTED.

BY LOOKING AT THAT, YOU CAN SEE WHAT THE DISTRIBUTION, THE GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION, AND ALSO THE SEASONAL DISTRIBUTION OF INSECTS.

INSECTS ARE EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT ALL INSECTS ARE EVERYWHERE.

BUT IT'S NOT YOUR TYPICAL MUSEUM.

ROBERT BLINN IS THE COLLECTION MANAGER.

THE SPECIMENS CAN BE USED AS A RESEARCH TOOL AND AN IDENTIFICATION TOOL TO HELP IDENTIFY POTENTIAL PEST INSECTS.

THE TRUTH IS, MOST OF THESE CABINETS ARE CLOSED MOST OF THE TIME.

IT'S LIKE A LIBRARY.

MOST OF THE BOOKS JUST SIT THERE.

THEY'RE NEVER REALLY -- THEY'RE NOT USED.

BUT EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, SOMEBODY CHECKS OUT THAT BOOK.

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, SOMEBODY WANTS TO BORROW THIS STUFF, AND THEN WHO KNOWS?

SO IN THE ROWS AND ROWS OF CABINETS, YOU'LL FIND BIG BUGS, BIGGER BUGS, REALLY, REALLY BIG BUGS.

THIS IS THE HERCULES BEETLE FROM SOUTH AMERICA.

THE HERCULES BEETLE?

HERCULES BEETLE.

WHY HERCULES?

I GUESS BECAUSE IT'S BIG.

THERE ARE ARMORED BUGS, BUGS WITH PRETTY WINGS, BUGS WITH LONG LEGS, BUGS WITH LITTLE LEGS AND BIG WINGS, BUGS WITH STRIPES, BUGS WITH LOTS OF COLORS.

THESE ARE IN THE FAMILY REGIVIET, A PARTICULAR SUBFAMILY.

MOST OF THEM ARE GROUND-DWELLING.

NOT ALL INSECTS -- IN FACT, MOST -- ARE NOT BIG COLORFUL THINGS.

MOST ARE RELATIVELY SMALL, RATHER CRYPTIC IN COLORATION.

MOST INSECTS DON'T WANT TO BE SEEN.

THIS IS THE OLDEST BUG.

IT'S A BEE.

THE LABEL SAYS 'WT, 1882.'

THAT'S WASHINGTON TERRITORY, 1882.

WASHINGTON WASN'T A STATE YET.

WE FUNCTION SORT OF AS A STORAGE FACILITY FOR INSECTS THAT ARE COLLECTED, YOU KNOW, ALL OVER NORTH CAROLINA, ALSO ACROSS THE WORLD.

WE ALSO HAVE HOLDINGS FROM EXOTIC PLACES.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO HAVE THESE KIND OF HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN SORT OF AMASSED OVER THE YEARS TO KEEP TRACK OF DISTRIBUTION RECORDS, FOR EXAMPLE, WHERE A PARTICULAR SPECIES WOULD OCCUR.

SAY TEMPERATURES ARE RISING 2 DEGREES.

FOR A LITTLE INSECT, THAT MIGHT MAKE A DIFFERENCE, AND THEN THE DISTRIBUTIONS MIGHT SHIFT OVER TIME, EVEN OVER A PERIOD OF 100 YEARS.

THAT CAN HAPPEN.

SCIENTISTS COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD TO STUDY THE BUG COLLECTION.

THE MUSEUM GETS ITS BUGS FROM INDIVIDUALS WHO DONATE THEIR PRIVATE COLLECTION.

IF YOU WOULD LOOK AT THESE UNDER A MICROSCOPE, MEASURE THEM, YOU WOULD SEE THAT THEY ARE NOT ALL EXACTLY THE SAME WITHIN A PARTICULAR SPECIES.

THERE IS VARIATION.

THERE IS A LITTLE DIFFERENCE IN THE PATTERN OF THE COLORS, IN WHATEVER PATTERN THERE IS ON THE BODY, AND IN THE SIZE, AND WITHOUT HAVING A LARGE NUMBER TO LOOK AT, YOU WOULD NOT NECESSARILY SEE THAT.

AGAIN, TO GET THAT DISTRIBUTION OF SPECIMENS, THEY'RE NOT ALL COLLECTED AT THE SAME PLACE.

THEY'RE NOT ALL COLLECTED AT THE SAME TIME.

AND MUSEUMS JUST WANT TO BE BIG.

COLLECTIONS JUST WANT TO BE BIG.

NOW, DO WE HAVE TOO MANY OF CERTAIN SPECIES, OR DO WE HAVE ENOUGH?

PROBABLY.

PROBABLY.

BUT THERE'S PLENTY OF EXAMPLES WHERE WE ONLY HAVE ONE OR TWO SPECIMENS OF A PARTICULAR SPECIES, AND IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE MORE.