The University of Arizona insect collection is home to several million insect specimens and continues to grow each year.

Retiring Associate Curator Carl Olson, also fondly known as “The Bug Man,” said students and colleagues alike contribute to the vast collection of pinned insects housed in the UA Department of Entomology.

The collection is used not only for research, but also for public education and outreach, Olson said. The goal is to help people understand what bugs they are dealing with in their backyards.

The collection also helps people learn the value of all the creatures in our ecosystem. Once they learn more about bugs, Olson said, they realize they are not so bad.

Insects contribute to the health of the ecosystem in many ways through pruning and fertilizing plants, and more. The insects are vital to the health of plants in nature, he said.

By explaining this, Olson hopes to take the fear factor out of bugs for people.

“They’re not out there to sting you or bite you,” Olson said.

Ashley Grove is a journalism student and an intern for Arizona Public Media.