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Mar 27, 2017 11:30 AM EDT

Arizona State University Receives Over 1.2 Million Insects For Research

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Over 1.2 million insects worth $12 million were donated to the Arizona State University. The donors, Charles and Lois O'Brien, are renowned entomologists themselves.
(Photo : Screen grab JCMegabyte/YouTube)

Over 1.2 million insects were donated to the Arizona State University (ASU), making it one of the leading research facilities to help the agricultural sector. Apparently, there are about 10 million species of insects on Earth, but only 10 percent of them have been named.

Lois and Charlie O'Brien, 90 and 83 respectively, are entrusting their specimens to the entomologists at ASU. In total, the donation was worth about $12 million. It includes 250,000 planthoppers and more than one million weevils.

The donors are entomologists themselves and have traveled the world collecting various bugs. While many believe that these creatures are nothing but crop-eating pests, Charlie sees them as allies for farmers. For one thing, his research proved that weevils have become agents against invasive weeds that destroy the ecosystem.

According to Smithsonian, studies claim that preserved insects last for hundreds of years. Thus, they can help different generations of scientists to better understand how these bugs interact with their environment. Meanwhile, the collection is currently placed in more than a thousand glass drawers.

The O'Briens selected ASU for the grant because of its upward trend in research funding and entomological base. Moreover, curator Nico Franz is a renowned expert on weevil studies and a long-time friend of Charles. Per the Arizona State University Now, the school already had over 1 million specimens even before the donations came in.

Additionally, the couple is teaching insect systematics in the School of Life Sciences. The course deals with identifying and naming newly found species. Aside from the collection itself, the love story of the O'Briens and their life-long devotion to entomology is equally fascinating. The couple has traveled to at least 70 countries in all seven continents.

For his part, Franz is not just the curator of ASU's Frank Hasbrouck Insect Collection. He is also the Director of the Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center and an assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Franz acknowledges the great trust the O'Briens have given them.

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