Dowagiac Area History Museum host open house for insect-themed exhibit

Published 9:21 am Thursday, December 9, 2021

DOWAGIAC — The Dowagiac Area History Museum will host an open house for the temporary exhibit “The World of Insects” from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16. The exhibit includes hundreds of samples of insects from around the world—from common butterflies and bees to exotic insects as big as an adult hand from Asia.

The World of Insects was guest curated by local entomologist and botanist Bill Westrate. Though he made his living operating a farm in Volinia Township for decades, Westrate has had a strong interest in nature since he was a child. He has collected and preserved specimens of insects, reptiles, snakes and other creatures on his travels and assembled exhibits with them.

Westrate first put his collection together for an exhibit at the museum at Southwestern Michigan College in 1990. The original exhibit was shown throughout Michiana and Michigan, including at Michigan State University. He also designed an exhibit for a nature center and butterfly garden in Belize, a small country in Central America.

The World of Insects offers visitors a glimpse into the habitats and lives of various insect groups, including bees, flies and ants. Highlights include a 175-year-old skep (manure-covered beehive); an example of a Heddon beehive from the late 1800s and a rare Heddon honey jar; two early 1900s collages created with thousands of insects on loan from the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology; and a beautiful display of butterflies and moths from North and South America.

“Insects have always fascinated me and I see that some insects are disappearing from nature entirely,” Westrate said. “Many people don’t like them and we don’t like them in our homes, but if people changed their attitudes about insects, the problems disappear and their lives get more interesting. Insects play a vital role in nature and in our lives. For example, without bees, we would not have honey or many fruits that rely upon their pollination.”

The World of Insects will be in the museum’s temporary gallery on the second floor into June 2022. The museum is currently scheduling programming and dates when Mr. Westrate will be on-hand to guide visitors through the exhibit.

Admission to the exhibit Open House is free. The museum is at the corner of Division and West Railroad streets. Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 10-2. For more information, call the museum at (269) 783-2560 or visit