The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, April 08, 1988, Page 3, Image 3

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    Curator says bugs
aren’t just pests
Summer trips supply museum with insect exhibits
By Larry Peirce
Staff Report er
Like Indiana Jones, Brett Ratcliffe is
always searching for items for museum ex
hibits. But for Ratcliffe, the most beautiful
treasures are insects.
The results of his insect-collecting ad
ventures will be shown this Sunday at Mor
rill Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lin
For the last 20 years, Ratcliffe has been
curator of insects at the University of Ne
braska State Museum, where part of his job
involves trips to the tropics.
These trips aren’t average tourist excur
“We come as close to Indiana Jones as
you can get,” he said. “Just traveling the
roads of Central America is dangerous.”
He said a good trip will result in about
20,000 insects for the museum’s collection.
The museum’s Division of Entomology
contains about 1.75 million specimens from
around the world.
Ratcliffe’s longest stay in the tropics was
two years in the Amazon River Basin in
Brazil, where he worked with Brazilian en
tomologists. Every summer for the last 14
years, Ratcliffe and other scientists have
traveled to the tropics of Central and South
America to collect insects.
Sunday’s program, called “Insects: Fact
and Fancy,” will be presented by the mu
seum from 2 to 4 p.m.
Visitors will be able to talk to the scien
tists, handle the insects and watch cockroach
Another feature of the program will be
something called the exotic “oh, my” collec
“It is acollection of very large, very beau
tiful insects and spiders from the tropics,”
Ratcliffe said. Many fancy insects live in
Nebraska, but because they ’re not very large
or very spectacular in color, they’re easily
overlooked, he said.
Ratcliffe said the tropical insects in this
collection are “bigger and more gaudy.”
Ratcliffe said the Madagascar hissing
roach, which grows to about 3 inches long,
is a good example for the program. The
insect’s size makes it easy for people to see
and learn about insects’ body parts, he said,
and it doesn’t bite.
Ratcliffe said Costa Kica is an excellent
place to hunt insects because 10 percent of
the land is saved for national parks.
Costa Rica takes care of its tropical rain
forests, he said. Ratcliffe said when rain
forests are destroyed, habitats for animals
and insects are lost.
“We’re losing species of insects before
we even discover them,” he said.
Ratcliffe said the continued clearing of
rain forests for lumber and cattle grazing
could have tragic consequences.
In some heavily populated countries, he
said, the dung beetle has a vital role in
feeding on human and animal waste. Some
developing nations don’t have modem
waste-disposal facilities, he said.
“It’s been said that in underdeveloped
countries... if it weren ’t for the dung beetle
recycling human waste into the soil, within
a year’s time India would be knee-deep in
shit,” he said.
Doug Carroll/fDaity Nebraskan
Brett Ratcliffe and some of the insects he collects.
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