NTU HIGHLIGHTS December 2017  

campus scenes


Schoolchildren Learn the Love of Bugs in Public Lectures at Insect Museum

The NTU Insect Museum sits shrouded in trees a little off the beaten path at the foot of Toad Mountain. The museum's moss-encrusted building is the same building that housed the predecessor of the Department of Entomology when it was established as part of Taihoku Imperial University in 1936.

Despite its somewhat out of the way location and the unassuming appearance of the 80-year-old Japanese colonial building, the venerable institution is in fact the oldest museum in Taiwan. Housing over 330,000 individual insect specimens, it also boasts the largest collection of any museum in the nation, as well.

As one of the 10 museums in the NTU Museums Group, the Insect Museum seeks to share its valuable scientific assets with the public at large. Moreover, it hopes to expose a new generation of schoolchildren to the wonders of entomology and transform their natural fascination and fear of bugs into a love of the scholarly study of bugs.

To achieve these goals, the museum decided in 2017 to increase the number of public entomology lectures it schedules each month. Public response to the lectures was so positive that, by November, the two lectures held each weekend were drawing capacity turnouts.

Most of the attendees have been children accompanied by their parents. The enthusiastic reaction is the result of not just the fascinating lecture topics, but promotional efforts on the part of museum personnel, as well.

Presented by graduate students of the Graduate Institute of Entomology, the public lectures are designed on the basis of the students' own research work. While the topics cover deep scientific issues, the presenters fill their lectures with interesting insights, and strive to ensure they can be understood by the general public.

The most recent lectures have explored the courtship and breeding behaviors of various species of insects under the topic "Insect Mating." During the lectures, the audiences learned that moths and butterflies, despite their similar appearances, take quite different approaches to courtship.

Butterflies perform a dramatic flying dance in hopes of attracting a mate of the opposite sex. Usually, a female selects a mate from a flock of male dancers. While butterfly courtship depends on vision, moths find their mate through their olfactory senses—that is, they rely on sex pheromones.

For instance, the large feathery antennae of the male Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), an enormous moth found in Taiwan, enable it to detect the minute pheromone molecules released by the female from a distance of several kilometers. The male then locates the female by following the varying concentrations of the windborne pheromones.

After the lectures, attendees are free to tour the museum's special exhibition area, where they can view hundreds of beautiful insect specimens and learn more about the lives of bugs found in Taiwan and around the world.