Clemson University Arthropod Collection

Medical and Veterinary Entomology and the CUAC

The Clemson University Arthropod Collection (CUAC) has proven invaluable to researchers expanding the science of medical and veterinary entomology in regional, national, and global contexts. The utility of the CUAC includes aspects of insect ecology, detection of pathogens, comparative taxonomy and morphology, and cytotaxonomy concerning arthropods involved, or potentially engaged, in pathogen transmission. In tandem with field surveys, the distribution of potential arthropod vectors in South Carolina has been documented using voucher specimens deposited in the CUAC. Examples include assassin bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), bed bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae), biting flies (Diptera), fleas (Siphonaptera), lice (Phthiraptera), and ticks (Acari). The CUAC was recently instrumental in documenting the blow flies (Calliphoridae) of South Carolina, which will be important to entomologists in the state and the southeastern USA using insects in a medicolegal context.

The CUAC has also provided for the detection of symbiotes and pathogenic organisms of medical and veterinary arthropods. Gut fungi (Zygomycota: Trichomycetes), which inhabit the digestive tracts of insects, have been detected in museum specimens of larval black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae) from around the world (e.g., Armenia, Canada, and Russia) giving new insights into the distribution of these symbiotic organisms, often impractical using only living or freshly-killed hosts. Ichthyosporean protists (Ichthysporea), microsporidian protists (Microsporidia), and nematodes (Mermithidae), have been recovered and identified from fixed black flies, sometimes after twenty years in preservative fluids. Museum arthropods have also been screened for pathogenic bacteria such as Bartonella spp. (etiologic agents of cat scratch fever and trench fever), Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), and Rickettsia typhi (murine typhus). Detecting pathogens through molecular means in preserved hosts can help identify potential new vectors of pathogens or even novel disease agents.

A depository for voucher specimens used in research is afforded by the CUAC, increasing the value of manuscripts and publications. The CUAC is an indispensable depository for research organisms for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, and even recreational insect enthusiasts. The museum allows researchers to access specimens to verify or nullify previous work or to complement their own studies.