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Bugging Out

19th-Century Models Reveal Insects’ Insides—and Entomology’s Past

By Annie Krakower

Silkworm Model

Photo by John T. Consoli

Photo by John T. Consoli

Judging from the practically ancient yet nearly perfect silkworm model that Maryland entomology students studied for more than a century, they don’t make papier-mâché like they
used to.

Around 1891, the University of Maryland—then the Maryland Agricultural College—purchased three of the oversized models of silkworm moths and larva for use in entomology instruction.

French anatomist and naturalist Louis Thomas Jérôme Auzoux used the state-of-the-art craft technique to construct anatomically correct creatures inside and out. Pry open the larva model, for instance, and you’ll find its nerve cord, digestive system and other organs.

Auzoux died in 1880, so the bugs may not have been new when they landed at UMD. Yet they nested in the Department of Entomology until Professor Emeritus Donald H. Messersmith handed them over to University Archives to preserve in 2012. After at least 140 years, it’s fair to say the teaching tools still have legs—several pairs of them.


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