Bug collectors Charles and Lois O'Brien announced this week that they're parting ways with their impressively massive insect collection, and donating it to Arizona State University for research. The octogenarian couple's collection — which takes up two rooms in their Tucson, Arizona, home — is worth an estimated $10 million and could provide invaluable insight to scientists studying "natural controls on the environment" and insect family trees, The Guardian reported. Out of the collection's more than a million insects, researchers believe as many of 1,000 of the insects could be "new to science."
So how did one couple get so many bugs? After meeting in the late 1950s at the University of Arizona and falling in love, the O'Briens went on to lead what Lois described as "sort of an Indiana Jones life" — at least for Charles. "It's been a wonderful life for me," she said. They both studied the "relations between insects, plants, and humans," before embarking on a life's work that took them to 70 nations across seven continents, The Guardian reported.
The couple would "rent a car and go out into the bush or jungle or desert, wherever, to collect" insects, Charles said. "Hit and run, is what we call it. We drive down the highway from some town and see a place that looks like it might be worth stopping, and we stop," Charles said. "If it's good we spend several hours collecting there."
While Lois was partial to planthoppers and Charles was "very happy with the weevils," the couple seems to have a soft spot for insects of all shapes and sizes. "We were brought together by insects," Charles said.
They still work on their collection 10 hours a day. "They're such wonderful creatures," Lois said. "Wouldn't you like to fly? Wouldn't you like to swim underwater for three days? Not to mention stinging. I have a neighbor I would like to sting."