The insect collection at The Ohio State University offically began when Professor Josef N. Knull (1891- 1975) was hired in 1934 as full-time curator. For the next 28 years, Professor Knull devoted his career to expansion and arrangement of the collection. A good portion of the collection came from local collecting by Knull together with his wife and fellow entomologist, Dr. Dorothy Johnson Knull. Additionally many specimens were contributed by the students, faculty and staff of the deparment. But during that period - with the exception of a few years during the height of World War II - the Knulls spent their summers collecting in the American Southwest. Each year, before the development of the interstate highway system, they would drive from Columbus to that year's targeted area, Big Bend, the Chiricahuas, Huachucas, etc. Both were outstanding collectors, and the results of their efforts are reflected in the volume and diversity of material they added to the collection. Professor Knull was a specialist on Coleoptera; Dorothy Knull on leafhoppers. These continue to be two of the major strengths in the collection.
Charles A. Triplehorn became the collection curator in 1962 and remained in that position for the next 31 years. During this period, the role of curator evolved from one in which the incumbent’s responsibility was only for the care and use of the collection to that of a full-time faculty member. As such, curatorial responsibilities were added to the standard teaching and research responsibilities. Dr. Triplehorn was responsible for the design of the collection’s new facilities in the Museum of Biological Diversity. The move from the main campus to the current location on Kinnear Road took place in 1992.
Norman F. Johnson took over the responsibility for the collection in 1992. Because of the change in the job responsibilities of the faculty member in charge of the collection, the title was changed from curator to director. At that time the College of Biological Sciences first provided the OSUC with a permanent position for a full-time curator to handle the everyday activities of the collection. The current incumbent in that position is Dr. Luciana Musetti.
Many prominent private collections which formed the nucleus of the Ohio State Insect Collection were incorporated during the years of Professor Knull's tenure. Notable among these were the H.W. Wenzel Coleoptera, Herbert Osborn Homoptera and Hemiptera, J.S. Hine Diptera, R.A. Leussler and W.N. Tallant Lepidoptera, C.H. Kennedy ants, D.J. Knull leafhoppers, W.M. Barrows spiders (now housed at the OSU Acarology Laboratory), and the Alvah Peterson collection of immature insects. Increased acquisition of exotic specimens occurred later through the efforts of C.A. Triplehorn (Brazil, Panama, Mexico), P.H. Freytag (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras), H.J. Harlan (South Vietnam), D.M. DeLong (Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru), L.E. Watrous (SE Asia) and B.D. Valentine (Caribbean Islands).
The single most significant collection obtained was the D.M. DeLong Homoptera collection, presented to OSU in 1965, with more than 1,700 primary types. Due to the combined efforts of DeLong, Osborn, D. J. Knull, R. Davidson, and generations of their students and collaborators, our leafhoper collection is one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere and is especially rich in type specimens.
Other substantial collections acquired in the past 45 years are the C.R. Cutright aphids, the R.M. Geist Mallophaga (slides), the H. Price Odonata and Lepidoptera, D.J. Borror Odonata, N.W. Britt aquatic insects and the C. Brivio Coleoptera (160,000 specimens). In 2000, Dr. Clement Dasch (Muskingum College) donated the bulk of his collection, all but the parasitic Hymenoptera, to the Triplehorn Insect Collection. This consisted of 345 boxes (8½" x 12½"), with an estimated 65,000 specimens, mainly Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera, Orthoptera, Hemiptera, and smaller quantities of several other orders. Most recently (2015), a massive collection of an estimated 50,000 specimens of butterflies was donated by a local Lepidoptera enthusiast, Dave Parshall.
Our current research work and collaborations in parasitic Hymenoptera have led to rapid growth in that part of the collection. With the financial support of the National Science Foundation we have been actively collecting around the world for our systematic studies of the superfamily Platygastroidea. In addition, survey projects funded by the NSF in Madagascar, Colombia, Chile, Thailand, and Kyrgyzstan have produced much valuable material.
In 2009, due to reorganizations within the University, the collection and its staff were transferred to the Department of Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology within the College of Arts and Sciences.