History of the Texas A&M University Insect 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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