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Insects, Arachnids and Myriapods Collections

Insects, Arachnids, and Myriapods

The Division of Insects’ holdings of worldwide Arthropoda (excluding Crustacea) rank fifth in overall size among North American collections and are of worldwide importance for many groups.


The Division of Insects’ holdings of worldwide Arthropoda (excluding Crustacea) rank fifth in overall size among North American collections and are of worldwide importance for many groups.

The collection presently includes roughly 4.1 million pinned insects plus 8.3 million specimens or lots in alcohol or on microscope slides. In addition, there are over 17,000 partly-sorted “bulk samples” from traps or leaf-litter extractions. The collection receives heavy use by US and international research visitors and borrowers as well as extensive educational use.

Conversion to KE-EMu collection management software in 2006-2007 consolidated our ever-growing collection databases and allowed us to put them online. Included are:

  • specimen/lot catalogs of
    • ants, bat flies, lice, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, and butterflies and moths from the Strecker Collection
    • types of arachnids (except mites and ticks)
    • types of ground beetles (Carabidae)
  • species-level inventories of
    • Coleoptera (beetle) families Staphylinidae, Silphidae, Histeridae, Sphaeritidae, Synteliidae, and Carabidae
    • Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Diptera (flies)
    • Trichoptera (caddisflies; pinned collection only)
  • species lists for other insect orders
  • bulk sample collection

Beetles - Coleoptera is the best-represented and most heavily used order in the collection, with unusually comprehensive material at family and generic levels. The Palaearctic (Eurasian and North African) holdings are the most extensive in this hemisphere, as are collections from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Micronesia for many families. Central and South America are also very well represented, including possibly the largest collection of Chilean beetles in existence (incorporating the Luis Peña G. research collection as well as staff collecting).
North American holdings are also significant. Donation of the N. M. Downie collection in 1992 provided nearly complete species representation for the northeastern USA, including voucher specimens for a guide to beetle species of the area (Downie and Arnett 1996, The beetles of northeastern North America).

Besides the Staphylinidae collection highlighted below, our holdings of other beetle families such as Histeridae, Ptiliidae, Leiodidae, Cleridae, Mordellidae, and Lucanidae are unmatched among New World collections for world representation of genera and species, and are probably surpassed only by the much older The Natural History Museum (London) and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Paris). Our holdings of other families have tremendous strengths in specific regions, such as North American Elateridae, Buprestidae, Cleridae, Elmidae, Dryopidae, and Cerambycidae; South American Tenebrionidae (also world genera); or particular subgroups, such as the Scarabaeidae subfamily Cetoniinae.

Staphylinid Beetles - Foremost among the Coleoptera holdings are our Staphylinidae, or rove beetles, the largest beetle family with over 57,000 named species. Our collection of over one million specimens is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, and includes primary types (holo-, lecto-, neo-, or syntypes) of over 8,000 species (rivaled only by The Natural History Museum in London). This family accounts for about a third of all loan use in Insects. Major historically important collections include those of Max Bernhauer, Alexander Bierig, Ludwig Benick, David Kistner, and Orlando Park.

Butterflies and Moths - The Lepidoptera collection is the strongest of the other large insect orders, with good worldwide holdings of Macrolepidoptera, both butterflies and moths. The single largest element is the worldwide Herman Strecker Collection <link to Strecker page>, including nearly 50,000 specimens and 450 types. When Strecker died in 1901, his collection was the largest and most important private Lepidoptera collection in the New World. Other strengths are European moths and about 75% of named North American Macrolepidoptera species.

Vertebrate Ectoparasites - Most significant among this collection unit are the bat fly families Streblidae and Nycteribiidae (Diptera); our holdings are unparalleled, including over 75% of known world species and types of 40% of known species. Recent work has expanded the collection to about 100,000 specimens, with new material going into cryostorage for ongoing molecular studies.
Among other ectoparasites, we also have cosmopolitan collections with 50% of described tick species (Acari: Argasidae and Ixodidae); about 30% each of described sucking louse (Phthiraptera: Anoplura) and flea (Siphonaptera) species; types of over 250 species of fleas (including the R. E. Lewis collection being added); and major holdings of parasitic mites (Acari) from Australia and the Neotropics.
Most of these specimens were collected by mammalogists or ornithologists and have excellent host data, usually associated with host voucher specimens. This makes the vertebrate ectoparasite collection a superb resource for studies of parasite-host associations and coevolution, in addition to systematic studies.

Ants (Formicidae) - The Field Museum is home to the worldwide ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) collections of Robert E. Gregg. Although the majority of the Gregg collection is from the USA, it also includes important samples from around the world. There are also extensive wet (alcohol preserved) worldwide collections sorted from or still in the bulk samples (see below). The pinned ant collection has been inventoried, databased, given unique identifiers, and made available in our online EMu collection database. Additional specimens are being pinned from alcohol and databased.

Other Insect Orders - Our collections of other insect orders are less comprehensive, but include some noteworthy elements, particularly in the Hymenoptera: the worldwide Robert Gregg ant collection (Formicidae, see above) and part of the Alfred Kinsey gall wasp (Cynipidae) collection. Besides bat flies (described above), the Diptera collection of 74,000 specimens, with over 150 primary types, is worldwide in scope, strongest by far in Nearctic and Neotropical material. It includes the Sidney Camras collection, which is am especially important collection of the family Conopidae.

Arachnids - The collection houses representatives of all arachnid orders. In addition to the vertebrate parasites mentioned above, the collection contains major holdings in several additional mite groups, especially: Hydrachnidia (water mites; types of 90% of described North American species and many types from other areas), Neotropical Opilioacariformes, Australian and Neotropical Holothyrida, World Trigynaspida, New World Endeostigmata, World Trombiculidae (parasitic chiggers, including the R. B. Loomis collection of ~650,000 specimens and over 1,500 type slides), and arthropod-associated mites, especially World Eviphidoidea.
The spider collection of nearly 100,000 lots is also of growing importance, with recent additions from Madagascar, southern Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia. A catalog of all recognized arachnid types (excluding Acari) is forthcoming.

Myriapods - The collection houses over 13,000 samples of millipedes (over 170,000 specimens) sorted at least to order. The diplopod collection data are completely databased. The millipede type collection harbors well over 200 type lots, for which a published type catalog is available (Zootaxa 1005). The centipede collection contains approximately 4,000 lots and 65 type lots; a type catalog for these is due out in 2007. The bulk sample collection (see below) harbors extensive material, especially in the centipede order Geophilomorpha.

Bulk Arthropod Samples - The Field Museum is one of the world's largest repositories of bulk arthropod samples, collected by museum staff and associates and collaborators from other institutions. Most are samples of soil and litter faunas (mostly from forests) around the world, extracted by use of Berlese funnels or other means including deep-soil washing, and mostly stored in 70% ethanol, with increasing numbers of recent samples in 95% ethanol. At around 17,000 samples, this may be the largest such collection in existence. Most samples have had some taxa removed, such as beetles or mites, but still contain vast numbers of other arthropods. This collection also includes samples from traps (flight intercept, pitfall, dung- and carrion-baited pitfall, and blacklight) and small-scale pyrethrin-fogging of substrates such as logs. The spiders extracted from some of these samples reflect the significance of this resource: they represent some 70% of all spider families, including many that are generally rare in collections. Representation of Coleoptera from the bulk samples is similarly comprehensive at the family level: about 80% of described families and nearly two million specimens in alcohol. Much sorting of Field Museum’s bulk samples has been supported by grants to curators in the Division.



The Division of Insects holds worldwide collections of Arthropoda (except Crustacea) ranking fifth in size among North American collections, currently about 4.1 million pinned insects and 8 million specimens or lots in alcohol or on microscope slides.
The Field Museum ant collection is world-wide in scope and includes the important Robert E. Gregg Collection.
The worldwide collections of spiders and their relatives and millipedes, centipedes, and related groups include all arachnid orders and 15 of the 16 millipede orders. Over 11,000 lots of millipedes (Diplopoda) are identified to at least order and databased.
The Field Museum is one of the world's largest repositories of bulk arthropod samples, collected by museum staff and associates and by collaborators from numerous other institutions. The majority of these are samples of soil and litter faunas (mostly from forests) around...
The Coleoptera - beetles - make up the largest curated collection unit in the Field Museum's Division of Insects, consisting of at least 3 million pinned and several million alcohol-preserved specimens, and thousands of slides.
The Field Museum's Lepidoptera collection contains worldwide holdings of macrolepidoptera, both butterflies and moths. The single largest element is the worldwide Herman Strecker Collection of nearly 50,000 specimens, built up in the late 19th century and including over 450...
Ectoparasites of vertebrates are a major element of the Division of Insects collection. Diverse cosmopolitan collections with host data provide  bases for comprehensive phylogenetic, biogeographic, and coevolutionary research.