About the Insect Museum
Washington State University was founded in 1890 and is part of the land grant university system. The insect collection was started just two years later, in 1892! As the land grant institution for the state of Washington, one of the mandates of Washington State University is to serve and support the agricultural community. The collection was an early documentation of the state’s insect fauna. A collection of insects allowed for efficient identifications and was used to help educate generations of students. The collection still contains some of those first specimens; many are labeled “Washington Territory” and were collected in the late 1800s. The Collection has grown significantly over the years and continues to increase in specimen number. Our growth coincides with an increasing number of people realizing the importance of the role of natural history collections to secure a record of the world’s biodiversity.
What is now called the M.T. James Entomological Collection at WSU is one of the larger university insect collections in the country. The collection is housed on the first floor of the Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) building in the Department of Entomology on the main Pullman campus. It is representative in all major insect orders and contains over 3 million curated specimens. It is one of the few collections that can provide specimens from the Pacific Northwest, and it serves as an important regional and national resource. It also has extensive and diverse holdings from Guatemala.
The insect collection holdings are growing and field collecting and acquisition efforts are ongoing. Since 2000, the WSUC has obtained large donations, including private collections totaling tens of thousands of specimens, the Walla Walla College collection (>85,000 specimens), donations of moths by regional authorities (>18,000), and more. Under the auspices of the US Department of Energy and The Nature Conservancy, in the past decades museum personnel conducted diversity studies of the Hanford Nuclear Site (>94,000 specimens), native Palouse Prairie (>15,000) – all providing information on species richness, diversity, and distribution of many of our native insect taxa.