Chasing bumble bees on a patch of prairie

Tommy McElrath with a net
Illinois Natural History Survey insect collection manager Tommy McElrath captures a bumble bee in a prairie near Trelease Woods, a conservation and research property owned by the university.
Photo by Fred Zwicky

INHS scientists, including insect collection manager Tommy McElrath, conducted bumble bee surveillance as part of a contract with the Illinois Department of Transportation for a few parcels in northern Illinois affected by road and highway construction projects. These parcels may or may not be prime habitat for bees. But if something rare turns up, like the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee, Bombus affinis, IDOT might alter its plans.

Read more about the project.

Saving our natural heritage, one stopper at a time

Tommy McElrath wrote for the U of I News Bureau about the problem of deteriorating rubber stoppers and how a grant from the National Science Foundation is enabling INHS to replace them, thereby preserving valuable insect collection specimens. Read the complete rubber stopper story at the News Bureau’s website.

Insect collection at the Illinois Natural History Survey. “Melting” vials that have deteriorated over time.

Tarantulas in a pickle jar

Tommy McElrath describes some of the unusual ways specimens have been stored over time, including toe-tagged tarantula specimens sharing a recycled pickle jar. Read the full story of the tarantulas and more about the hands-on work required to keep insect collection specimens properly preserved at the News Bureau website.

All these individual spiders in the separate jars were stored in this large pickle jar, with only toe tags to identify the spiders.

New INHS Insects Collection Manager

Tommy McElrath – insect collection manager Illinois Natural History Survey in the collection stacks.

New Collection manager, Dr. Tommy McElrath, just arrived, replacing Chris Grinter who is now insect collection manager at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. Please contact Tommy for all collection-related business.