Entomology Collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University holds one of the larger and taxonomically complete entomological collections in North America. It includes some of the earliest North American insect specimens, and some of the collection, such as the Orthoptera and related orders (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, cockroaches, etc) ranks among the best in the world. The collection is used by scientists worldwide in systematic and ecological research, in the education of students at Drexel University, and in public programming at the Academy throughout the year.


Collection Databases

By fall 2013, all of the collection will have had some level of data from the specimens captured and organized in electronic databases, and available to research users worldwide. This site is designed to allow the user to search all the available records for the entomological collection in one place, with possibilities to link to special databases of the collection which we have developed over the last 15-20 years. These projects include the our current IMLS-funded Digital Species Index, along with the Orthoptera Species File, and specimen and image databases to the Primary Type Collection, the Titian R. Peale Butterfly and Moth Collection, and the Aquatic Insect Collection.

Search Collection

An added note for searches of type specimens in Coleoptera and Lepidoptera:

The Academy exchanged portions of its Lepidoptera and Coleoptera collections, including some types, with the Carnegie Museum (Lepidoptera) and Museum of Comparative Zoology (Coleoptera) in the 1960-1970 period. If a type is listed for ANSP in the original description but is not found in a search of our database, it may be that the type is now at the Carnegie of MCZ. Please be aware though that we still have substantial holdings of Coleoptera and Lepidoptera, including primary types.

Orthoptera Species File

Curator Dan Otte was one of the first entomologists to develop a computer-based species authority file database for a major insect order, the Orthoptera Species File, using FileMaker Pro, (http://osf2x.orthoptera.org/HomePage.aspx ). The ANSP collection, particularly data and specimen images of the Orthoptera type specimens formed the basis for the Orthoptera Species File (OSF), with the first volume of OSF published in 1994 and first hosted online in 1997 and now contains listings for all Orthoptera species, approximately 25,000.

Entomology Type Collection

Re-housing and Database Development of the Primary Type Specimens in the Entomological Collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences. J. Gelhaus. $92,432. NSF:Biological Research Collections, awarded 2002 – 2004.

From 2002 -2005, with NSF and ANSP funding, the Primary Type Collection of over 11,000 specimens was databased (http://clade.ansp.org/entomology ).

Curatorial. — The Entomology Department of the Academy of Natural Sciences (ANSP) has holdings of over 11,000 primary type specimens of insects and related invertebrates. The previous housing of the primary type specimens was sub-standard, with antiquated metal cabinets with degraded felt gaskets that did little to prevent intrusions by pests and did not ameliorate greatly the fluctuations in room temperature and humidity. Some drawers in the cabinets showed significant gaps that also can allow pests to enter. The type specimens of many groups of insects were stored with multiple species per storage tray, subjecting each specimen to unnecessary handling and causing problems in re-associating loose parts with the appropriate specimen. Some of the collections had been exchanged with other institutions in the past, and the lack of available lists of type specimen holdings of the Entomology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences caused unnecessary confusion for researchers and hindered their scientific research. Primary types which were not pinned (in fluid, slides, envelopes) were stored in the main collection with the rest of the holdings of the particular insect order, resulting in over 20 different locations for the type collection.

This project re-housed all primary type specimens in sealed, gasketed steel entomological cabinets installed in the southeastern corner of the 4th floor Entomology Collection storage range. All primary types previously stored in unit trays with multiple holotypes per tray have been moved into individual trays lined with high-density polyethylene foam and archival acid-free foil-backed labels affixed to individual storage trays. Primary types in fluid, slides and envelopes are now stored in appropriate cabinetry with the rest of the type collection.

Database of primary types on-line. — A FileMaker Pro database was created that was used in the re-curation process, to help in collection management, and populated with records for all 11,097 primary type specimens in the ANSP Entomology Collection. The database is served to the web and is searchable via a web page with a user- friendly custom-made interface at the following URL: http://clade.ansp.org/entomology

Titian R. Peale Butterfly and Moth Collection

In 1999, databasing and imaging of the historic Titian R. Peale collection (specimens dating from 1828-1885) was completed with National Endowment of the Arts funding as one of the Save America’s Treasures Projects. For more information about this special collection, visit the database of specimen data and images at http://clade.ansp.org/entomology/collections/peale/index.html ).

Aquatic Insect Collection

From 2005-2009 a project funded by NSF and ANSP focused on the databasing of the aquatic environmental survey collections, including 29,000 aquatic insect specimens, vials and slides (http://streamsurvey.ansp.org/ ).

Collection History

The Entomology Department has been in existence from the mid-1800's and its beginnings are inseparable with that of the American Entomological Society (AES). Some of America's most prominent 19th century entomologists were among the earliest members of the AES, including E. T. Cresson, Sr., George Horn and John L. LeConte, and the collections of ANSP today are built upon the efforts and collections of these early American entomologists, particularly our collections of Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants) and Coleoptera (beetles).

Important special and historical collections include the primary Type Collection and the Titian Peale Butterfly and Moth Collection. The Type Collection numbers more than 11,000 specimens and has been recently databased and re-housed, in part with funding from a grant from National Science Foundation. The Peale Collection remains in its original boxes dating as far back as the 1820’s until 1885 and represents an extraordinary set of specimens from pre-industrial Philadelphia, early expeditions to Brazil and Colombia, and New Jersey, Washington D.C., Europe and other locales.

During the last century, the collection was built and greatly influenced by James Rehn, whose systematic studies of Orthoptera spanned 1900-1965, and Morgan Hebard, who financed many expeditions and with Rehn researched Orthoptera. Together they built a collection of over 1 million orthopteroid insects. The orthopteroid holdings have been strengthened by the addition of the Bruner and Scudder Collections in the 1960’s and 1970’s (through exchanges with Carnegie Museum and Museum of Comparative Zoology, respectively, of parts of the Lepidoptera and Coleoptera collection), and extensive collecting in North America, Africa, Caribbean and Hawaii by current curator Daniel Otte (including hundreds of new species).

During the past century, E. T. Cresson Jr. followed his father in entomological systematics, collecting and describing acalypterate Diptera (true flies), and P. Calvert, a professor at neighboring University of Pennsylvania, developed a major collection of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). The development of the Limnology Department under Dr. Ruth Patrick, and its emphasis on survey and biological monitoring of streams and rivers, influenced the development of the aquatic insect collection, most notably a worldwide collection in chironomid midges, by S. Roback. Three major gifts of Microlepidoptera (small moths, such as leafminers) in the last century, most notably the Annette Braun collection, make this an excellent resource for study of these moths, many which are plant or stored product pests.

Current Curator Jon Gelhaus brought his research collection of crane flies (Diptera: Tipulidae) to ANSP in 1990, augmenting an already extensive North American collection of this group, including numerous types. Subsequent fieldwork by Gelhaus in western North America, Europe, Central and South America, and more recently mid-Atlantic US and Mongolia, has expanded this research collection of crane flies worldwide, including a large component of reared and associated immature stages.

The Mongolian Aquatic Insect Survey project, led by curator Jon Gelhaus, has developed a large collection of a variety of insect groups beyond the crane flies mentioned above ( http://clade.ansp.org/entomology/mongolia/index.html ) from nearly yearly fieldwork from 1995-2012. Recent collection donations include the apterygote hexapod collection from R. T. Allen, an Academy Research Fellow, and worldwide Lepidoptera from the Goodridge and Bridge Collections.

Last data update on Aug. 9, 2013