Insect Collection

The Insect Collection is a valuable resource of specimens for entomological research. Each year hundreds of specimens are lent to taxonomic experts in other institutions in Australia and overseas.

The first step in scientific research is to identify the species. This provides the key to the published information and other data on the species, which is necessary to development a control program.

The Insect Collection focuses on insects that affect agriculture. The collection has become more important as entomologists develop insect management systems that rely less on chemicals and more on alternative control measures. To develop integrated pest-management practices, all insects in crop systems must be studied and identified as either pest or beneficial. This is a combined effort between the taxonomist and the field entomologist.

History of the collection

The Insect Collection began in 1894 with the appointment of Henry Tryon as Government Entomologist.  Since 1943, the collection has been responsible for both identification and original taxonomic research. Today it is 1 of 2 comprehensive collections of agriculturally important insects in Australia.

Included in the collection

The pinned collection

The pinned collection contains about 1.6 million specimens. It’s the largest reference collection of economically important species in the southern hemisphere. The pinned collection incorporates several smaller collections, including:

  • the Alan Fletcher Research Station Biocontrol Collection
  • the Forestry Insect Collection
  • several regional insect collections in Cairns, Bundaberg, and Nambour.

Specimens with a hardened exoskeleton are mounted on stainless-steel pins and accommodated in either timber or metal insect cabinets.

To reduce the risk of damaging irreplaceable reference specimens during handling, specimens are stored in unit trays (shallow cardboard boxes with a foam base) and each species has its own tray (or trays).

The spirit collection

The spirit collection consists of over 9,000 tubes of soft-bodied specimens preserved in alcohol, representing approximately 1,200 different species of insects. Specimen tubes are arranged in aluminium racks and stored in metal filing cabinets. Each tube is numbered, catalogued and cross indexed for easy retrieval.

The slide collection

Many small insects must be mounted on glass microscope slides to be identified. The slide collection contains over 52,000 identified slides.