Adorable Couple Donates Their £8 Million Insect Collection To Science

By Gizmodo UK on at

Lois and Charles O'Brien are both in their 80s. They met at the University of Arizona in the 1950s, "brought together by insects", according to Charles in an interview with The Guardian. They're big on bugs—enough to have collected more than a million insects, a collection worth $10 million (£8 million), according to Nico Franz, an entomologist at Arizona State University, where the insects are now being kept.

"“They’re such wonderful creatures,” says Lois in The Guardian's interview. “Wouldn’t you like to fly? Wouldn’t you like to swim underwater for three days? Not to mention stinging. I have a neighbour I would like to sting.” The married couple have spent years together, but they're not without their disagreements: Lois loves planthoppers. Charles prefers weevils.

The couple have travelled the world for their insect-collecting hobby, from the frozen tundras of Antarctica to the beaches of Chile, where Lois nearly drowned. They've adjusted to nocturnal schedules to match the beetles they're looking for. They once went on a 4-and-a-half month road trip from Florida to Panama and back, and when they're home, they label, pin and mount insects while watching TV together.

In short, they're painfully adorable—and the interview is worth reading to find out about them, as much as to find out about their mammoth insect collection.

Franz has enlisted the help of students working part-time to categorise and sort the insects, and says that some of the collection is “new to science”, an incredibly useful resource for scientists present and future.

And though the adventure is coming to an end for the O'Briens, they seem content.

“It was sort of an Indiana Jones life for Charley,” says Lois. “It’s been a wonderful life for me.” [The Guardian]