7.5 Million Wasps
August 20, 2015 5:06 PM   Subscribe

As well as founding the field of sexology, Alfred Kinsey was an avid entomologist who collected 7.5 million specimens of gall wasps and plant galls. After his death his collection was donated to the American Museum of Natural History.
posted by carter (15 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I always thought Kinsey had a lot of gall.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the biopic Kinsey, Kinsey's marriage proposal pitch to his wife includes a comment along the lines of "You're the one girl in a million who's as interested in insects as I am!"

That seems to have been a mark of distinction indeed. Oh, and her wedding present from him was a 80-million-year-old wasp in amber. She pronounced it perfect.
posted by orange swan at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


The birds and the bees?

Nothing?
I'll show myself out.

posted by Xavier Xavier at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


After being stung by a yellowjacket a few weeks ago and still being a sissy about it, there's about no way I'm clicking that link.
posted by splen at 5:48 PM on August 20, 2015


It's 7.5 million dead wasps ...
posted by carter at 5:50 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kinsey mighta had a lot of Gall but Nabokov was an unrepentant Lepidopteraphile
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:56 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hence the term "bugfuck crazy."

sorry

not sorry

posted by Halloween Jack at 6:34 PM on August 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is super cool, thanks for sharing it!

We've been using oak galls for thousands of years to make ink, dye clothing, tan hides, and treat various diseases.

Some particularly pretty galls:
- Lime nails (caused by a mite)
- Cedar apple rust (caused by a fungus)
- Rose bedeguar (caused by a wasp)
posted by bismol at 6:36 PM on August 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


What do you call 7.5 million dead wasps?

A start.

He seems to have collected gall wasps from around 1919, when he finished his doctorate, to 'the late 1930s', which is around twenty years. Which, by my calculations, means around a thousand wasps a day, including weekends and holidays. For twenty years.

Even if you work ten hour days, that's well over a wasp a minute, collected, classified and stored.

For twenty years.

There is nothing about these numbers that is not mind-blowing.
posted by Devonian at 6:49 PM on August 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think he had a staff helping him, otherwise that would be impossible.
posted by dilaudid at 6:54 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


7.5 million wasps collected, at 1 per minute, 8 hours a day, five days a week = 78 years
posted by BentFranklin at 7:32 PM on August 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I seem to remember reading a Stephen Jay Gould essay about Kinsey, where Gould credited Kinsey with affecting some of his own thinking on punctuated equilibrium. Kinsey collected so many wasps because he wanted to create a continuum of minor mutations that would allow him to see evolution working little by little in action. Gould argues that Kinsey's 1-to-6 continuum scale for heterosexuality and homosexuality was probably influenced by his gall wasp studies too.
posted by jonp72 at 8:55 PM on August 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


What Good Are Wasps?
posted by pracowity at 11:17 PM on August 20, 2015


7.5 million wasps collected, at 1 per minute, 8 hours a day, five days a week = 78 years

Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. The number seems more incredible than mind-blowing.
posted by three blind mice at 11:49 PM on August 20, 2015


I started digging more into Kinsey's gall wasp research, it's very interesting. Basically it was large scale natural history work. He had teams of students working for him helping to collect and rear the wasps, and he was also very focused and productive in measuring them.

His report of his research into gall wasps is available online:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/The_Gall_Wasp_Genus_Cynips.pdf
posted by carter at 6:46 AM on August 25, 2015


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