IITA’s insect collection is based in Benin
It is the most extensive insect collection in West Africa
It has 366,000 insect species
Museum houses both pests and beneficial insects
Offers free insect identification services
How do you catch all these insects? How do you know where they are? Do you go into the bushes with a net and wave it in the air? There were so many questions that I kept asking as I stood perplexed. “Look around you,” Georg tells me with a look of amusement on his face. I look, nothing. “Lookup”, he directs my gaze. I look and spot what looks like a giant spider at whose sight I wince a little. Georg, amused, lets out a loud laugh, “look again”, he encourages me further. This time I let my eyes roam the entire room, which is about 40 by 40 ft; all over the walls are all kinds of enormous insects.
By this time, I was almost screaming until my eyes rest on a colossal grasshopper and with a little more scrutiny, I realize they are plastic insects – decorations. Georg is laughing, clearly enjoying my scared reaction. “Insects are everywhere; you don’t see them because you are not looking for them. That is how it starts; we go out in the natural environment and look for them. First, we see the big ones, but as we look closely, we even see the tinier ones”. This is a scene from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)’s Biodiversity Centre based in Cotonou, Benin. It is West Africa’s biggest insect museum or “insect collection” as IITA’s entomologist and biocontrol specialist, Goergen Georg prefers to call it.