The National Collection of bark and ambrosia beetles, already long regarded as one of the finest and most extensive in the World, roughly doubled in size with the aquisition of the Stephan L. Wood Private Collection in 2009. With roughly 180,000 specimens, the combined holdings now span 615 drawers grouped within 31 cabinets.
The task of integrating these two collections fell to Dr. Sarah Smith, a recent graduate of Entomology at Michigan State University. Despite her relative youth, Sarah is a well known specialist in bark and ambrosia beetles. She has discovered and described more than a dozen new species in this group, taught at international identification workshops, and collaborated on the development of interactive keys for the World Wide Web.
In spite of government closures and extreme weather conditions, Sarah managed to complete what is widely regarded as one of the largest curatorial projects ever attempted in the Smithsonian National Insect Collection. She single-handedly transferred and aligned specimens, verified identifications, organized species and genera within tribes, and printed and inserted new labels for individual trays, drawers, and cabinets filled with bark and ambrosia beetle specimens.
Sarah estimates that representatives of about half of the known diversity of these beetles can now be found within the collection, making it unarguably the largest collection of these beetles both in terms of specimens and number of distinct species.
During her last day on the project, Sarah Smith moved down the aisle with a cat-like grace, shifting drawers into their final positions and attaching new labels to the cabinet doors
| Bark and ambrosia beetles are rarely featured in public displays, yet these tiny tree-inhabiting insects are extremely important ecologically and economically. They play a beneficial role in forest communities by breaking down dead and dying woody material, one of the initial steps in nutrient recycling. Unfortunately, changes in weather patterns, pollution, and other forms of disruption can promote severe outbreaks of the beetles, and the loss of vast forested areas through direct tissue damage and the vectoring of fungal pathogens. |