1. Education
Debbie Hadley

Sean Hannity Bugs Entomologists, Belittles Bug Collection

By March 11, 2010

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Fox News host Sean Hannity launched a series of "investigative" reports this week, in which he claims he will reveal oodles of wasteful stimulus spending by the Obama administration. In his first report, Hannity and his sidekick Tucker Carlson blasted Michigan State University for using stimulus funds to preserve their historic arthropod collection. MSU's entomology department received a $187,632 grant from the National Science Foundation.

This isn't a multi-million dollar boondoggle. We're not talking about a bridge to nowhere, or a no-bid contract to Halliburton here. We're talking about $187,632. But in these tough economic times, let's assume for a minute that this $187,632 grant from the National Science Foundation might break the back of the American taxpayer, and go with Hannity's premise that this funding is suspicious.

In 1867, Professor Albert John Cook established an insect collection at what was then Michigan Agricultural College. During its 143 year existence, this insect collection has been expanded, through aquisitions and donations, to house well over 1 million arthropod specimens. The Albert J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection functions as a library of information for entomologists. The Cook Collection represents the arthropod biodiversity of Michigan, the Great Lakes region, and to a lesser extent, the world.

So why did MSU apply for a $187,632 grant? MSU just doesn't have the space needed to store such a vast collection properly. Some of the Lepidoptera collection filled hallways. Much of the collection was still housed in vintage 1950s cabinets that don't protect specimens from pests (yes, bugs that feed on the preserved bugs). The arthropod collection was at risk, and MSU didn't have space to expand or funding to purchase pest-proof storage cabinets.

With the $187,632 grant, MSU can purchase 13 storage cabinets, enough space to store at-risk specimens and expand their collection for the next 10 years.

But wasn't stimulus money meant to create jobs? Tucker Carlson mocked MSU entomologist Anthony Cognato for stating that grant funds were being used to employ four students for two years. The students will make between $8 and $10 per hour for moving specimens into the new storage cabinets. Cognato also noted the storage cabinets are manufactured here in the U.S.A., so MSU's order supports American jobs.

What Hannity and Carlson don't bother to "investigate" is the ripple effect this grant will have through the entomology universe and beyond. The Cook Collection is like an industry unto itself, in terms of job creation and support. MSU employs 18 faculty, staff, and students to oversee the operations of the arthropod collection.

But the true reach of the MSU arthropod collection goes far beyond East Lansing, Michigan. The Cook Collection is a lending library. Scientists can check out specimens to support their own research for periods of 2 years or more. Their research may in turn lead to new pest management products or techniques, which translates into new jobs in pest control services or product manufacturing. Research on agricultural pests directly supports farmers and nursery owners by helping them find cost-effective ways to control pests. Improved control of agricultural pests has an immediate impact on the quality, quantity, and cost of fruits, vegetables, and other foods at the grocery store. Do you see where I'm going with this?

The jobs supported by the impact of this $187,632 Science Foundation grant are both concrete and infinite. While the immediate impact of the funding is an improved and preserved library of arthropod specimens, the long-term reach of the grant is far greater. Researchers, professors, graduate students, pest control specialists, pesticide manufacturers, journal publishers, farmers, nursery owners, extension specialists, and food manufacturers all stand to benefit from this funding.

Sean Hannity is an ignoramus.

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March 11, 2010 at 11:48 am
(1) Potter Beth says:

You should send this to Fox News. Seriously, Debbie.

Or better yet, send it to Rachel Maddow. She could really sink her teeth into this!

March 11, 2010 at 11:59 am
(2) Sallie says:

I totally agree with the first comment. It is VERY well written and shows a greater talent in investigative journalism than anyone I’ve read lately. It’s factual, easy to understand and very interesting. Send it, they’ll never print it though.

March 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm
(3) MObugs41 says:

I second and third both of these comments. This is a well written article that should be shared with the powers that be at Fox. Show them what real investigative journalism is!

March 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm
(4) Lauren says:

Thank you so much for posting this. It’s a wonderful response to the FOX piece, and so very well-written!

March 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm
(5) Barb Rolek says:

I do indeed see where you’re going with this, Debbie. And Sean Hannity IS an ignoramus. It never ceases to amaze me how people can’t see the forest for the trees. And even if they DO see the forest, they want to cut it down to make way for a condominium development.

March 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm
(6) hymenopterista says:

Well argued and well written. Congratulations, Debbie.

March 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm
(7) Anthony C says:

Debbie – thank you for your support and well written synopsis.

I would like to add that we also purchased 1200 drawers and ~30,000 trays from American companies.

March 12, 2010 at 7:58 am
(8) insects says:

You are very welcome, Anthony. Congratulations on your grant and the excellent work done by the folks at the Cook Collection and the MSU entomology department.

March 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm
(9) Kevin says:

I’m hoping Hannity will follow his mate, Limbaugh, to wherever Limbaugh goes once healthcare reform is passed.

March 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm
(10) Loret says:

hmmm….FOX …I just discount most of what they say re “investigative reporting” as pure gibberish.

Our local Fox affiliate recommended Mexican Petunia as a good plant for a Garden…The problem is that the Mexican petunia is highly invasive and is listed as a Category 1 invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Mexican petunia received this classification because of its invasion and distribution within native plant communities.

FOX must be a really eurphoric bunch….that is if you think ignorance is bliss

March 16, 2010 at 10:51 am
(11) N F Hoban says:

Others who benefit from the grant to MSU’s bug collection: public health and animal health specialists, infectious disease and tropical medicine & hygiene experts, environmental health professionals, and, by extension, every single person living in the US and many millions living in other countries. I think that’s a bloody brilliant return on a measly $187K investment.

If you look a little farther downstream, the benefits will also extend to a whole range of other professions, such as landscape workers (and people who enjoy public parklands, for example) and golf course managers (and golfers), who depend on entomologists and the pesticides developed to deal with emerging pests; then there are the materials scientists who are devising or replicating new compounds based on substances from nature, and the people who ultimately manufacture those materials; conservation biologists who are working to understand biodiversity in order to shore up the dwindling ecosystem services upon which every single person on the planet depends; and then there are artists of all kinds, teachers and the children that they teach… Oh, and of course idiot far-right noisemakers who depend utterly on grants being given to the likes of MSU so they have a job to go to in the morning.

March 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm
(12) Mike says:

Great and interesting article!

February 16, 2011 at 12:19 am
(13) Wasp Catcher says:

This was such a good read! I know what you mean about Sean Hannity being dumb. I can’t even stand to listen to him or see him on air. This is a classic example of how Fox always delivers half-researched stories and just spins it according to what they want.

May 23, 2013 at 8:18 am
(14) Ann says:

You do have to admit that our government spends a huge amount of taxpayer money on wasteful studies, projects and other things such a an airport that serves 30 people going to Washington, D.C. a week but cost many millions of dollars or possibly billions, and really, a bridge to nowhere. Have you heard of raising your own money for these projects? Calling people names shows a lack of good manners for one thing and possibly a lack of a good education for another. If you had a problem with Tucker or Sean you could e-mail them instead of calling them names. What has happened to the behavior of our people in this country?
It seems that they have no regard for anything, anyone and lack good morals and judgement. And then we wonder why we have a corrupt government getting closer everyday to becoming a Banana Republic.

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