August 18, 2015
An insect museum, the first of its kind in India, will soon be set up at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).
It will be useful for farmers, entomologists, scientists, students, hobbyists and the general public. The collection of insects has been going on at the varsity for the last 60 to 70 years. Over 3,000 species of insects have been collected. A separate building under the aegis of the Centre of Plant Protection Studies has been allocated to host the museum.
The state government has allotted an amount of Rs one crore to set up and maintain the museum. As many as 60,000 samples of insects have been collected in last five to six years alone. Overall, 1,00,00 such samples are available.
“There is a general impression that insects are harmful. We will seek to dispel that notion,” said K Ramaraju, Director, Centre for Plant Protection Studies at TNAU. He hopes that the museum will
throw further light on insect life.
Apart from 29 orders of beetles, butterflies, wasps, bugs and flies have been collected. Multiple samples of the same species are also available. Also in the collection are grasshoppers, dragon flies and damsel flies. “Not all of them are harmful. Some are, in fact, beneficial,” Ramaraju said. He referred to bees, silkworms and lac insects, which provide honey, silk and lac. “Insects are the dominating species across ecosystems like soil and water,” he said.
The museum is open to the public. “Schools can bring children to the museum. We have staff to guide them about the world of insects,” Ramaraju said, adding that an audio visual presentation has been readied by the varsity on insects. Farmers can use the knowledge packages given by the university to tackle harmful insects in their land. “We are also using innovative ways to eradicate farmlands of insects without using chemicals.
Predators and parasitoids can instead be used,” he said. Ramaraju is also a professor of Agricultural Entomology and specializes in insect biosystematics and Acaraology. “The museum will act as a repository for students and scientists who want to do in-depth studies on insects,” he said.
As is well known, insects do damage crops. Rice, cotton, fruits, vegetables are all susceptible to insect attacks. This can lead to crop damage or decreased production.But this gives insects a bad name. Some are actually beneficial. Take for instance, the parasitoid, Trichogramma. This insect actually controls inter-nodal boring in sugarcane crops. Likewise, the ladybird beetle is a predator and lives of other harmful insects. By using such insects, chemical use on crops can be avoided.
Insects indulge in pollination as well, which is essential for the ecosystem to thrive.