Child looking at group of rocks on sidewalk through magnify glass

Bugs are bigger than ever at the Bell Museum

Published07/27/2021 , by Emily Dzieweczynski

If you haven’t heard, the bugs are out of the box! This summer at the Bell, it’s been all things bugs. We’ve taken our guests through new Learning Landscape experiences, virtual programming with insect experts, and larger-than-life sculptures examining the intricate detail of bugs. We’re incredibly thankful to our donor MGK for their continued support and involvement with the Bell—keep reading to learn more about the ways MGK is providing support for our mission. 

Exciting Kids About Insects!

As insect experts themselves, MGK was excited to support a summer of bug-themed programs. The reach of this programming across the University of Minnesota gave MGK the opportunity to not only build on their existing relationship supporting the Bell’s youth science and nature-based education programs, but also to build connections across departments at the university.

“MGK has enjoyed building an ever stronger relationship with the entomology and botany departments within CFANS,  as well as an opportunity to support the Bell Museum, which our employees and families have truly enjoyed,” Steve Gullickson, the president of MGK, shared. 

This summer in the Bell’s Nova Gallery until September 12, you’ll find the larger-than-life collection of insects in our exhibition Bugs: Outside the Box. With sculptures of bugs that are enlarged up to 400 times their size, visitors are able to examine the hidden details, intricate beauty, and get up close and personal with bugs. 

A group of kids looking at a bug sculpture in amazement

To create even more chances to get up close and personal with bugs, the Touch & See Lab’s Collection’s Cove experience now includes a MicroEye microscope that allows visitors to examine water from the Bell’s pond. With this microscope, visitors can practice bug identification while exploring the wonders of the microworld within the Bell pond. So far, they’ve found many amazing organisms such as dragonfly nymphs, volvox algae, water fleas, tiny leeches, and backswimmers.

Two images side by side. One is a bug under a microscope and the other is a group of people looking at a microscope

A child catching bugs with a net by the pondAdditionally, in a new pilot program, visitors can have a hands-on insect exploration experience on our Learning Landscape through our Ento Explorer kits! These kits—developed in partnership with Frenatae, a UMN Entomology Graduate Student Organization—are available for check-out by visitors and provide all the necessary tools to gently and safely catch insects to observe them up close. Visitors are encouraged to use their observation skills to learn more about the insects that live on the Bell’s Learning Landscape—and maybe even in their backyard!

A group of people looking at a collection of bug specimensThrough the Bell’s ongoing partnership with MGK, we have also been able to create a snapshot of the insect ecosystem on the Learning Landscape by creating a synoptic collection. A synoptic collection refers to a collection that is taken in a specific location over a certain period of time. Our collection, on view in the Education Wing, features bugs collected from the Learning Landscape over the summer—providing insight into what really lives on the Bell’s landscape. This collection provided an educational opportunity, too, for our student interpretive guides who learned how to collect, pin, and share insect specimens. The insect trapping was done through the installation of a passive collecting trap, called a malaise trap, as well as with net collection. These efforts combined resulted in a collection of hundreds of specimens

Insect Experts Visit Bell’s Virtual Summer Camps!

An MGK employee presenting about bugs via ZoomThe Bell’s relationships with MGK reaches back to before bugs took over the museum. Last year, MGK employees volunteered as guest speakers for our youth summer camps. We’re happy to share that they will again visit our summer camps for the second year in a row. It doesn’t take long for camper’s faces to light up and their minds to spark with curious questions when the MGK employees present—they often bring along exciting creatures too!

Thank you cards in children's handwriting to MGK employees

We’re grateful for MGK’s continued support and look forward to the years of curiosity to come!