The Division of Entomology at the University of Nebraska State Museum houses approximately 2 million pinned, fluid-preserved, papered, and slide-mounted insects and arachnids. We have ongoing research programs dealing with the systematics of Neotropical scarabaeoid beetles. The national collection of scarab beetles from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC is housed here for a lengthy period of off-site enhancement. The research collections in entomology rank in the top 20 collections of this type in North America and represent one of only three existing collections with large holdings of Great Plains material (the University of Kansas and Iowa State University being the others). Although acquisitions from the Great Plains and Neotropics are emphasized, the collections contain material from all over the world. Special holdings in the Division include Lawrence Bruner's Orthoptera (largely Neotropical), Myron Swenk's Hymenoptera, the Worley and Pickwell spider collection, the Ron Rivers donation of New Guinea butterflies, the Ken Fender synoptic collection of North American Cantharidae, the Dodge Engleman collection of Panamanian Pentatomidae, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Control's extensive voucher collections resulting from their surveys of aquatic habitats, and the Neotropical Coleoptera currently being added by the present staff. The orders best represented in the collection are Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, and Diptera. With modern storage and conservation techniques and virtually no backlog of unprepared material, this collection is extremely well curated. Deposition of types in the collection began in 1900 with Lawrence Bruner. In addition to many of Bruner's Orthoptera types, many types of Swenk, Viereck, Cockerell, H.S. Smith, Ralph Dawson, and Brett Ratcliffe are also here. At the present time, there are primary and/or secondary types for about 1000 species in the collection.
The entomology collections at the University of Nebraska have had a long and prosperous history. The first graduate degree conferred by the University of Nebraska was in 1886 to C.G. McMillen who majored in Entomology and Geology. Samuel Aughey, the first director of the University Museum, conducted research on the Rocky Mountain locusts, chinch bugs, hessian flies, and other insect pests from 1871-1878. By 1890, entomology was regularly offered as a course in the Industrial College. In 1895 the Department of Entomology and Ornithology was established by Lawrence Bruner. Bruner is considered the "father" of Nebraska entomology. Bruner's private collection (dating from 1870) formed the nucleus for the current collection in the Division of Entomology. Entomology was made a Division of the Museum in 1948, and the collections were moved from the Department of Entomology to the University of Nebraska State Museum's Research Collections facility in 1969. This move, made possible by an NSF facilities grant, brought together all the University's natural history research collections, including the Divisions of Zoology, Botany, Parasitology, Vertebrate Paleontology, Invertebrate Paleontology, and Anthropology. Thanks, in part, to conservation funding from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the insect collections are extremely well curated, including modern storage cabinets and drawers, virtually no backlog of unprepared material, and continuing species-level and specimen-level databasing.