Insects, Arachnids and Myriapods

Insects, Arachnids and Myriapods

The Division of Insects covers insects, arachnids (spiders and their relatives), and myriapods (millipedes, centipedes and their relatives). Our curators and collection management staff work together closely to maintain a world-class collection of more than 12 million  specimens, over half the Museum's holdings.

The curators have active research programs, working with specimens from around the world, and actively build and curate collections, train graduate and undergraduate students, develop exhibits and other public programs, and serve the diverse needs of the public and scientific communities. Members of the professional staff build, maintain, and improve the collections and associated collection database and participate actively in exhibit development, public programs, and other outreach activities. Volunteers in Insects help with many aspects of collection management and research, including sorting new samples and identifying specimens; entering specimen or loan data into our database; organizing and caring for parts of the collection, and photographing specimens.

Insects, Arachnids and Myriapods Collections

Ant (Formicidae) Collection

The Field Museum ant collection is worldwide in scope and includes the important Robert E. Gregg Collection among others.  Although the majority of the Gregg collections are from the USA, it also includes important collections from around the world.  There are also extensive wet (70% alcohol preserved) worldwide collections due to the efforts of previous collectors including H.S. Dybas and S.B. and J.

Arachnida & Myriapoda Collections

The entire scorpion (Scorpiones) collection has been databased as lots, largely through the efforts of Tom Anton and collection manager Dan Summers. As of February 2008, it consists of close to 1000 lots (mostly single-specimen), including 71 type lots, from 53 different countries, with 11 of the 18 scorpion families represented. The Field Museum's types of spiders (Araneae, ca. 140 lots), daddy-long-legs (Opiliones, ca. 100 lots), and pseudoscorpions (Pseudoscorpiones, ca. 80 lots), have all been databased. Relatively little non-type material of those orders has been entered so far. 

Arthropod Collections

The Field Museum's Insect Collection contains worldwide collections of Arthropoda (excluding Crustacea) that rank fifth in overall size among North American collections. At present, the collection includes approximately 4.1 million pinned insects and 8 million specimens or lots of insects and other arthropods in alcohol or on microscope slides. The collection receives heavy use by US and international visitors and borrowers. Collection data are now available online in KE EMu for many parts of the collection:

Bulk Sample Collection

At over 16,000 samples and growing, this may be the largest such collection in existence. Most samples have had some taxa removed (especially some combination of beetles, mites, spiders, millipedes, and recently ants), but still contain vast numbers of other arthropods. In addition to soil and litter samples, there are also samples from some 4,000 trap collections (flight intercept or FIT like the photo above; unbaited pitfall; dung- and carrion-baited pitfall; and blacklight) and small-scale pyrethrin-fogging of substrates such as rotting logs.

Coleoptera Collection

The beetle collection is world-wide in scope, with special strengths in the Staphylinidae (rove beetles), Histeridae (clown beetles), Silphidae (carrion beetles), Sphaeritidae (false clown beetles), Synteliidae & Agyrtidae (primitive carrion beetles):

Lepidoptera Collection

The collection has been inventoried and curated at the species level. Integration of the Strecker and several smaller collections with the main collection was completed along with moving and rehousing the entire Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) collection in new cabinets. The Strecker collection specimen data and comprehensive inventory data are both presented here.