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New Mexico State University

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NMSU's Arthropod Museum Holds Open House

LAS CRUCES - The Arthropod Museum in New Mexico State University's entomology, plant pathology and weed science department will hold an open house July 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Skeen Hall Room W168.



Andrine Morrison with New Mexico State University's Arthropod Museum handles hissing cockroaches she uses for classroom demonstrations. Thousands of children and adults have learned about insects through the museum's educational programs. (07/09/2003) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

Curator David Richman, a science specialist, said the event's goal is to educate people about the museum and what it does.

Home to 140,000 sorted and unsorted insects, spiders and crustaceans, the museum has had an active outreach and insect identification program for nearly 20 years.

This year, about 6,000 children have learned the intimate details of arthropods through museum tours and volunteers' visits from preschool to high school classrooms in New Mexico and Texas. The museum also participates in many events, including FFA and 4-H.

Nearly 3,000 children from kindergarten to third-grade were educated and entertained at the fifth annual Insect Expo sponsored by the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park in May, when 50 volunteers displayed live bugs and coordinated 22 activity stations for the children.

As a result, adults and children see an amazing array of arthropods from hissing
cockroaches to honey bees. One of Richman's signature displays, his "Oh My" insects, includes insects kids don't get a chance to see except in movies, such as the six-inch Hercules beetle. Other creepy-crawlies include giant scorpions, violin spiders and a birdwing butterfly with a foot-long wingspan.

Richman said that he wants to impress on young and old minds alike how important insects are to humans. "We share a planet with several million species of insects, at least," he said. "There are a tremendous number of insects that are beneficial to us." Richman said that insects influence our daily lives, right down to grocery shopping for fresh fruit, which was pollinated by bees.

The Arthropod Museum was the first to correctly identify red imported fire ants in Hidalgo County and the first Japanese beetle in New Mexico.
People show up on the museum's doorstep every year with wayward bugs from their homes or crops. The museum helps them identify the insects and learn whether the bugs are harmful to humans, animals or crops.

Richman said that in the future, he would like to expand the museum under The Center for Natural History Collections. "We would like to eventually unite every natural science collection on campus into a natural history museum," he said. It would allow curators to catalog their collection of insects in a database and improve educational programs about insect invasions and changes in insect populations.

Richman said he hopes the open house will help boost support for the Arthropod Museum so that it can continue its outreach.

For more information, contact Richman at (505) 646-2900 or e-mail him at nmbugman@taipan.nmsu.edu.