Wife commits to continuing entomologist’s work
BEETLES were George Bornemissza’s life and passion, and his artist wife Jo is keeping the obsession alive – a labour of love displayed in delicate detail.
Mrs Bornemissza is completing her late husband’s vast beetle collection – and adding her own creative flair to the thousands of beetles he never had a chance to mount and display.
The final Bornemissza beetle collections are colour coded, and arranged in relevant patterns.
Beetles from the world’s alpine regions have been laid out to form snowflakes, while those endemic to Tasmania have been arranged to form a map of the island. There are also beetles in waves and beetles in coils.
As well as carefully displaying the beetles according to their origins and categories, Mrs Bornemissza is fastidiously sketching the displays to ensure their correct names are on hand for future reference.
“George was totally obsessed by beetles,” said Mrs Bornemissza, a retired art teacher.
Dr Bornemissza is credited with introducing the dung beetle to Australia, a step which means the nation is not overrun by flies.
He moved to Tasmania in the 1970s, and the world renowned entomologist continued his obsession with beetles. When he died in Hobart in 2014, there were still thousands of beetles left to catalogue and display. “There were so many beetles in the house,” Mrs Bornemissza said.
She is working on the task with her husband’s “right hand man”, retired science teacher and fellow beetle enthusiast Mike Bouffard.
“George would work 12 hours a day with beetles, he had such a passion for them and he wanted to share it with everyone,” Mr Bouffard said.
In his lifetime, Mr Bornemissza created 40 display boxes of beetles for the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, and there are a further 96 of his boxes in storage at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.
Since his death four years ago, Mrs Bornemissza and Mr Bouffard have completed another eight display boxes which they have handed to TMAG, and they are completing a further three displays.
Beetles are from regions throughout the world, and some are so rare they are considered priceless.
“Some of these beetles are almost 100 years old and can no longer be collected anymore because they are virtually extinct their numbers are so low,” Mrs Bornemissza said.
Dr Bornemissza was born in Hungary and emigrated to Australia in 1950, and joined the CSIRO.
The young entomologist noticed soon after his arrival in Australia that the native dung beetles could not cope with the quantities of dung created.
Dr Bornemissza recommended introducing foreign dung beetles to Australia, which would be more efficient in recycling nutrients into the soil and reducing the masses of flies which used the dung to breed.
“It’s because of George’s work that you can eat outside without having to bat away flies,” Mrs Bornemissza said.
His work was widely acknowledged and appreciated, and in 2001 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to science and entomology.
About 20 species of beetles have also been named in his honour.
Beetles in the collection of George Bornemissza, above, who died in 2014.