“There are not many showy insects in Belgium. Maybe 6 or 7. In Nicaragua there are hundreds of nice, big, colorful insects.”
It is no wonder why Belgium native Jean-Michel Maes, the founder of the Entomological Museum of Leon, wood bee interested in visiting Nicaragua. His initial stay was a two-year contract that started in 1988. A quarter century later he finds himself pinned to his accumulation, still studying insects and giving tours of his creepy crawly collection.
And what a collection it is. There are about 40 cases of bugs on display with about 700 stacked wall to wall in the back room. “Our collection on display is whatever we are working on at the moment,” he says. They are packed in cases to keep them dry since wa ter-mite ruin them. I was lucky enough to see some of the butterfly collection as well as a few of the spiders, beetles and praying mantises.
“The fun part is going out to the field and collecting,” quipped Jean-Michel. “Nobody wants to catalog the insects in the database. So usually I get that job.” With 140,000 specimens in the database and tens of thousands waiting in the wings, there is no shortage or work to be done. Volunteers are welcome…provided they aren’t bugged by inputting data, being swarmed by cases full of insects, ant can stick it out for a minimum of three months (growing a beard not required).
El Museo Entomologico de Leon can be reached by phone at (505) 2311-6586 and is open every day of the moth from 9am – 4pm with the normal siesta between noon and 2pm. To get there just walk from the church El Calvario a short block and a long block north (left if you are facing the church) and you should see it on the corner on the right-hand side (the gas station is a block too far). You will probably find the door shut so just ring the doorbell on the right side of the entrance and wait a minute or two for Mr. Maes to come to the door. C$10 to enter, not refundable if you suddenly realize you suffer from entomophobia.
Check out their website bio-nica.info for more information.