Science & Technology



Steven Krauth, curator of the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection, holds a ghost walker ground beetle, one of the larger specimens in the Young Coleoptera Collection. (The ghost walker ground beetle is native to Sumatra, so no, you didn’t see one in your room in Barnard.) Photo: Andy Manis.

The Young Coleoptera Collection brings the UW bunches of beetles.

You know who really bugs the UW? Daniel Young bugs the UW. And he’s been bugging the UW for years, largely with his own bugs.

Young is a professor of entomology, and he’s also the director of the university’s Wisconsin Insect Research Collection (WIRC). Over the course of seventeen decades, the collection has brought together nearly 3 million curated insect specimens — and nearly 5 million more un-curated specimens and project samples. But Young is also an avid bug collector himself. For the past several years, he’s been donating his own collection to the university: the Daniel Young Coleoptera Collection.

Coleoptera are beetles, the largest order of animals on the globe. (But they don’t include “true bugs” — those are in the order Hemiptera. So Young may bug the UW, but he doesn’t truly bug it.)

“There are more than 300,000 species of beetles,” Young says. “By comparison, there are only about 4,000 species of mammals, and yet that’s what most people think of when they think of animals.”

Young began collecting insects when he was an undergraduate at Michigan State University. “I’d always been interested in them,” he says. “I grew up in Michigan, and I did a lot of fishing — a lot of fly-fishing. That got me interested in taxonomy, in learning what various insects are.”

While still an undergraduate, he worked one summer for a graduate student, who gave him the challenge of organizing a collection of beetle specimens. From there, he just kept collecting. Over the course of his four-decade career, he’s accumulated more than 200,000 specimens of his own. He began donating them to UW–Madison in part to provide an added dimension of worldwide diversity to the WIRC.

“If you’re a Sherlock Holmes-type who likes investigating, insects are perfect,” Young says. “That whole world of the Victorian era, where new species and new genera were being discovered — it’s still available in beetles.”

The Young Coleoptera Collection, as well as the rest of the Wisconsin Insect Research Collection, is housed in two locations: with the Department of Entomology in Russell Laboratories and an annex on the third floor of the Stock Pavilion.

Published in the Winter 2013 issue


  • Lupe Diaz February 3, 2014

    Young was my favorite professor I had as an undergraduate. After taking Bio 151/152, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, he made me love science once again. HE IS AMAZING AT WHAT HE DOES!

  • Ismor Fischer February 4, 2014

    Dan is extremely knowledgeable, a great instructor, and an all-around mensch. Thanks, Dan.

    Ismor Fischer
    Dept of Statistics

  • Joe St. Peter February 4, 2014

    Favorite class at the UW, no doubt. Dr. Young had me dreaming about bugs.

  • David Samuels June 6, 2014

    I had Dr. Young for entomology classes at the UW in the mid 80’s and he definitely reignited my passion for research and investigative biology. I currently teach high school science and have kept up my interest in entomology…Thanks Dr. Young.

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