A giant roadside beetle and RV park belie the world-class quality of this Colorado Springs bug museum’s collection.
Turning off of Colorado Highway 115 at the oversized model of the Giant West Indian Hercules Beetle, and driving back through the recreational vehicle campgrounds, one could be forgiven for expecting a certain amount of kitsch at the May Natural History Museum. But beyond the gift shop and the Tiki warrior gods lie case after case exhibiting nearly 8,000 specimens from the extraordinary collection of James May, a British second-generation collector who traveled the world searching for rare, exotic, and beautiful insects.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of species of butterfly, moth, beetle, centipede, spider, scorpion, and more, arranged tastefully, even elegantly, in an immersive serpentine maze of framed white cases. The scale of the collection is impressive on its own, but at each case one is impressed as well by the remarkable quality and condition of its specimens, and above all, its variety. The carefully-written labels indicate that the bugs were gathered from locations as far flung as Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Papua New Guinea, and several varieties were discovered by May for the very first time.
The RV park and museum were opened by in 1947 by James’ son John May and is run today by his grandchildren.