Over the years, Biology Professor Klein has helped thousands of students appreciate the diversity, beauty and ecological impact of insects.
For Barrett Klein, there’s beauty in every bug
rowing up on the outskirts of Detroit, Barrett Klein treasured every piece of wilderness he could find.
His mother’s garden, the city zoo, pockets of nature around the neighborhood — all were sources of endless fascination for Klein. One day, he discovered a dead butterfly in the family’s driveway. It was a moment that left an indelible mark on his young mind, and inspired his lifelong obsession with insects. “I remember experiencing a thrill of knowing that insects could play a huge role in my life. How? I didn’t know, but not knowing helped fuel my exhilaration,” says Klein, a biology professor specializing in entomology. “Sometimes, all it takes is a
single, tiny creature to open our eyes or redirect our lives.” Since 2012, Klein has shared his passion for insects — from dancing honey bees, to farming leaf-cutter ants, to singing crickets — with thousands of students. Often, this involves gently converting those who regard insects as creepy and crawly — little nuisances to be squished by a shoe. To Klein, insects are spectacularly diverse, amazing organisms. The vast amount of good they do for people and the planet, he says, is rivaled only by their beauty. “All around us, we have these marvelous little beings that exhibit just about every form, color and behavior imaginable,”
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he explains. “If you are drawn to flashy iridescence or perfect crypsis, the delicate or the armored, the solitary or the social, the aquatic or the terrestrial, insects represent over 400 million years of evolution, radiating into more than one million described species. The diversity is so outrageous, there is something out there to appeal to any willing eye or mind.” In his quest to capture the intricacies of insects, it was fortunate that Klein came from a family of artists. His mother and father owned an art gallery for 40 years. His sister is a luthier and a writer. And his twin brother is a scientist who creates masks that could be considered masterpieces.