Museum Monday: Insects at San Francisco Int’l Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has bugs!

But don’t worry. The bugs are all under glass and are part of a new exhibit hosted by the SFO Museum.

The exhibit, titled The Intriguing World of Insects includes more than 1000 specimens, fine art photography and rare books. There’s also an atomical model of Musca domestica, the inscect we know better as the house fly.

Display drawer of camouflage insect specimens – courtesy SFO Museum

Why an exhibit of insects?

Besides that fact that they look really pretty and non-threatening inside the cases, insects, the exhibit notes tell us, are the most diverse macroscopic organisms on the planet.

Researchers have identified over one million species of insects – so far – and estimate that five to thirty million more insects are waiting to be discovered.

In fact, there are more species of ants than species of birds, and more species of beetles than all species of plants combined.

Display drawer of ladybug (Coccinellidae) specimens – courtesy SFO Museum

Here’s a quick insect class, to get you ready for the exhibit:

*Insects, spiders, lobsters, and their cousins are arthropods. That means they have jointed legs and an external skeleton.

*The first insects appeared around 400 million years ago and evolved wings over 300 million years ago.

*Fossils of dragonfly ancestors, called griffinflies, had wingspans of over sixty centimeters. In contrast, the tiniest insects today have wingspans of less than one millimeter.

*But not all insects have wings. Some species, like silverfish, never evolved wings, while others, like camel crickets, lost them millions of years ago.

*Insects play integral roles in ecosystems. They pollinate the flowers of many fruits and vegetables, produce wax and honey and keep pest plants and insects at bay. Insects also recycle nutrients through decomposition, and are important food sources for other species.

Class over, for now.

Display drawer of scarab beetle (Scarabaeidae) specimens- Courtesy SFO Museum

The SFO Museum’s exhibition, The Intriguing World of Insects, comes to San Fransicsco International Airport from the Essig Museum of Entomology which is has a collection of more then 5 million arthropods stored at the University of California, Berkeley.

Look for the exhibit pre-security in SFO’s International Terminal, on the Depatures Level through August 18, 2019.

Display drawer of blue and green butterflies (Rhopalocera) and colorful beetles (Coleoptera) – courtesy SFO Museum
Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) sculpture –
by Gar Waterman  courtesy SFO


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