Get a close-up view of a real ‘bugs life’ at the Enns Entomology Museum

“It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there princess. One of those ‘circle of life’ kind of things.” — from “A Bugs Life

The popular children’s movie “A Bugs Life” tells the story of an ant trying to save his colony from the grasshoppers. From a more realistic standpoint, the movie does its part to show children the undignified “pecking order” in the life of insects.

butterflydisplayFor an up-close view of some unusual specimens of the insect world, young and old alike can stop in at the Enns Entomology Museum on the MU campus.

“Insects are fun and interesting,” said Natalie Diesel, museum technical assistant and MU student. “There is so much to learn and it really hooks you.”

Located on the third floor of the Agriculture Building, the Enns Entomology Museum was founded on July 1, 1874, and currently holds roughly 6 million specimens of insects, arachnids and fossils of aquatic insects from the streams of the Ozarks.

“The museum offers a lot of diversity, ” said Kristin Simpson, museum manager. “We want students to realize how many different insects there really are.”

According to Simpson, there are more insects than any other living species. Looking through the glass at Enns Entomology Museum, individuals can experience insects differently than they would outdoors.

“We hope that students will realize that bugs aren’t really as scary as they think,” Simpson said.

reallybigbugsEntomology is a diverse and thriving aspect of the agriculture industry; where there are crops, there will be bugs. Agriculture professionals solve insect problems to make crops and livestock profitable every day. Simpson believes that if people understand entomology even on a surface level, they will better understand how to solve the problems that insects cause, and how insects can be beneficial to us.

“I’ve realized from working in the museum how important and how much a part of our daily lives insects really are,” Diesel said.

People will encounter projects completed by faculty, colleagues and graduate students on a tour of the Enns Entomology Museum. The museum frequently picks themes to decide which insects to include for events such as the South Farm Showcase, held every September at the MU South Farm Research Center, and the annual MU Campus Gallery and Museum Crawl.

“We like to keep the exhibits interesting,” Simpson said. “Each drawer should be eye appealing, and teach something to museum goers.”

Patrons will also soon be able to view the museum’s insects online. The museum is in the process of creating a digital record of all of its specimens. The department recently received a grant that allowed them to purchase a machine, which museum staff calls “the robot.” The robot allows museum technicians to take detailed pictures of each drawer of insects to post online, making it easier to view the six million specimens that the museum has to offer.

A traditional tour of the museum not only allows people to see unusual insects both big and small behind glass and deceased, but individuals have the opportunity to view a few live insects on a daily basis.

“We like to show live cockroaches,” Simpson said. “They’re not all pests, and by showing them live, people might be able to realize that.”

There are more to insects than meets the eye and that common myths and fears will allow people to believe.

“The museum isn’t huge, but come and ask questions,” Diesel said. “There is more to it than what is always open to the public, we have almost 7 million insects in the building.”

The Museum is open Monday through Friday. For in-depth tours, please contact museum manager Kristin Simpson at SimpsonK@missouri.edu.

Photos by Maggie Glidewell
Maggie Glidewell

About the Author Maggie Glidewell

I got my first glimpse of agriculture looking through the ears of my American Quarter Horse. I quickly learned there is much more to this industry than crops and cows. My name is Maggie Glidewell, no it’s not short for Margaret, and I am currently a senior majoring in agricultural education and leadership with emphasis areas in marketing and journalism. I hope to take the skills that I have learned at Mizzou and pursue a career in informal education and youth development, working to build up and shape the minds of the future of our industry.