History of Arkansas Arthropod Studies
The collections of The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Arthropod Museum date back to the beginning of the College of Agriculture. The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station was established in 1888. In 1905, Colonel W. G. Vincenheller, Station director, successfully lobbied in Little Rock for financial support. The bill that appropriated funds for buildings and maintenance also established the College of Agriculture. Departments devoted to entomology as well as horticulture, agronomy, animal husbandry, and other agricultural subjects were soon organized. The early faculty was composed, for the most part, of Station staff.
David G. Hall joined the Department in 1926. He added to the Diptera collection, largely in the families Syrphidae, Asilidae, Tabanidae, and Sarcophagidae. Hall resigned in 1928, to be succeeded by Dr. H. H. Schwardt, who added substantial amounts of reared tabanid material to the collection. Schwardt remained with the Department for 10 years and was later replaced by Dr. W. R. Horsfall. The collection grew with his work on the mosquitoes of Arkansas (Kumpe 1932).
During the 1950s Dr. Nell Bevel Causey published extensively on Arkansas millipedes. She had earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Arkansas in 1937 and a doctoral degree at Duke University in 1940. Dr. Causey held faculty positions at the University of Arkansas and later at Louisiana State University. Over a period of more than 30 years she produced some 70 taxonomic and faunistic papers on millipedes. Her specialties were cave millipedes and the family Parajulidae, but she studied nearly every order occurring in North America. Her enormous collection is now housed at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods in Gainesville.
In 1966, the Department hired a bona fide taxonomist. Rodney Kirkton was a hymenopterist. He had received his master’s degree from Purdue University under Leland Chandler in 1963. His doctoral research was a biosystematic analysis of variation of Halictus ligatus (Hymenoptera: Halictidae), and Purdue granted his doctoral degree in 1968. In Arkansas, his responsibilities included the study of hymenopterous parasitoids and a taxonomic study of the bees of Arkansas. In addition to taxonomic work, he experimented with biological control of caterpillars by manipulating paper wasp (Polistes) populations. He died tragically in 1972.
Dr. Alfred F. Newton, Jr., served as Visiting Systematist for the period October through December 1974. The major purpose of his visit was to build up a working collection of the beetle family Staphylinidae of Arkansas. He curated the entire staphylinid collection, including some 10,000 specimens collected by Dr. Allen and his students, principally Robert Chenowith, and he collected additional material. At the end of his short tenure in Fayetteville, the staphylinid collection contained over 14,000 specimens.
Through the efforts of Tommy Allen, the Arthropod Museum grew considerably in size and scope. It acquired part of the private collection of Carabidae belonging to Dr. S. L. Straneo of Milano, Italy, in 1969. The Straneo Collection added some 18,000 specimens in 5,359 species (Underwood and Brown 1970), representing most of the major tribes of Carabidae form throughout the world. That collection is highly valued because it contains specimens from habitats that no longer exist, and many of the specimens may be the only representatives of their species in North American collections (Carlton, personal communication). The purchase was made possible by a personal gift from Dr. David Rockefeller and matching funds from the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station (Allen 1973). Dr. Allen also donated his private collection, and he collected extensively in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, as well as in Bolivia and Panama. During his tenure as Curator, the Museum received two valuable collections donated by Mr. Board and Dr. W. D. Wyley, representing 183 species of long-horned beetles that occur in Arkansas (Arkansas Naturalist 1983).
Dr. Whitfield reorganized the Hymenoptera collection and added about 25,000 specimens of Hymenoptera (especially Ichneumonidae), Lepidoptera, and Diptera. He resigned in August 2001 and joined the faculty of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Dr. Whitfield and Dr. Donald Steinkraus established the Entomology Department’s annual Insect Festival, which now each year exposes around 3000 school children and other interested individuals to Arthropod Museum displays, as well as living insects, games, and various cultural items with entomological themes. The first festival, held 29 October 1993, featured insect horror and monster films in addition to specimens, and it drew 300 to 400 visitors from the community.
At the present time, the Arthropod Museum houses an estimated 750,000 specimens, representing perhaps 25,000 species (Miller 1998). In addition to the collections mentioned above, the Museum has significant holdings of specimens from South Vietnam and Thailand. The history of these collections is not clear.
Jeffrey K. Barnes, Curator
24 March 2003
Allen, R. T. and R. G. Chenowith. 1979. Insect identification and its relation to insect control: the University of Arkansas insect collection. Arkansas Farm Research 28 (6): 3.
Arkansas Naturalist. 1983 (September). Vol 1 (9): 11.
Kumpe, O. 1932. Arkansas’ only Ph.D. granted in entomology. Arkansas Agriculturist 9 (4): 1, 16.
Lincoln, C. and L. O. Warren. 1985. A history of entomology in Arkansas. Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.
Miller, F. 1998. Small world… Arthropod Museum puts bugs in perspective. Arkansas Land and Life 4 (1): 14-15.
Reynolds, J. H. and D. Y. Thomas. 1910. History of the University of Arkansas. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. 555 pages.
Rouse, P. and L. O. Warren. 1964. The entomological museum. Arkansas Farm Research 13: 10.
Rouse, E. P. 1967. The problem of insect identification and the University of Arkansas reference collection. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 21: 45-48.
Underwood, A. and R. Brown. 1970. The entomology museum. Arkansas Agriculturist 50 (1): 7.
Warren, L. O. and E. P. Rouse. 1969. The ants of Arkansas. University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 742. 67 pages.
Wilkinson, T. 1951. Department in the College of Agriculture – III. Entomology. Arkansas Agriculturist 28 (5): 9, 17.