Couple Donates Massive Bug Collection Worth $10M

Charles and Lois O'Brien spent 60 years amassing their collection
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2017 4:00 PM CDT

Lois O'Brien tells the Guardian she and husband Charles have had "sort of an Indiana Jones life." But instead of ancient artifacts, the O'Briens spent 60 years collecting insects across 70 countries and seven continents. Those bugs—approximately 1.25 million of them—now fill more than 1,200 glass drawers in the O'Briens' home, the Arizona Republic reports. But not for long. Charles and Lois are donating their collection—valued at $10 million—to Arizona State University. The O'Briens' bugs represent one of the largest private collections in the world and will more than double ASU's collection. ASU says Charles and Lois are "two of the world's foremost entomologists," and the dean of the Division of Natural Sciences calls the donation a "transformative gift."

The collection, which includes more than 1 million types of weevil, will help ASU fill in the weevil family tree. One ASU entomologist says the O'Briens' collection contains maybe 1,000 insects that are "new to science." Lois, 89, and Charles, 83, met at the University of Arizona in the 1950s when he was an entomology teaching assistant and she was a student. "We were brought together by insects," Charles tells the Guardian. Lois says their shared passion helped keep them together, and they've had a "great life." "We've traveled and experienced all kinds of exciting things," she tells the Republic. (More bugs stories.)

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