The Entomology Collection


The Entomology Collection

Insects are the most abundant group of animals in the world. There are approximately 1 million different species of insects which is 19 times more than the number of vertebrates (animals with backbones). Entomology is the study of insects which includes all animals in the Class Insecta including; butterflies, moths, bristletails, silverfish, mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies, cockroaches, termites, stick insects, earwigs, locusts, grasshoppers, lice, true bugs, beetles, fleas, ants, bees, wasps and a host of other animals.

The Grant Museum holds approximately 14000 insect specimens, which are preserved in a variety of different ways. Some are pinned, some have been preserved as fossils and some are stored in spirits, such as alcohol.

Timeline Collection

19th century

  • 1827 Grant Museum founded, housed at the East end of the Wilkins Building.
  • 1850 Two cases of insects, one with 28 glazed drawers containing approximately 2000 specimens, and 12 specimens in spirit are recorded as belonging to the college. This is the first record of insects in the museum - however, it is more than likely that insects were part of the collection from the museum's opening.
  • 1856 A glazed case of insects and other specimens is recorded as belonging to the museum.
  • 1879-1882 The Grant Museum moved from a lecture room shared with medicine and physiology in Wilkins Building to room formerly used by fine arts in the Cloisters of UCL.

20th century

  • 1890-1910 Many of the Insecta biodiversity specimens were collected at this time by a number of collectors including O.C.M.Reid and C.W.Ellacombe.
  • 1905 Some of Dr. Philip Brookes Mason’s “unrivalled collection” of British Lepidoptera are bought by either Finzi or the Grant Museum.
  • 1919 Collection of “bloodsucking flies” transferred from British Museum of Natural History (now the Natural History Museum).
  • 1911 The Mr. John A. Finzi collection is donated to the museum by his widow and daughter.
  • 1933 Collections moved to Medawar building.
  • 1939-1945 Whole collection evacuated to Bangor to avoid damage during the war.
  • 1961 "B.C." Collection of moths from Trinidad collected.
  • 1980-81 Specimens used in the A-level exam lab at the Pharmacy building are transferred to the museum.

1995-1997 Grant Museum moved from Medawar building to Darwin building.

21st century

  • 2001 Specimens removed from the main collection for the biodiversity display. Specimens from the C. A. Wiggins collection transferred from Oxford Natural History Museum.
  • 2002 August-September A-level exam lab material is frozen and transferred to the Stepheson Blake Hills cabinets.
  • 2003 March Roughly 1/3 of the specimens in the collection are disposed of due to pest damage. The collection is transfered into new cabinets. Old entomology cabinets sold.
  • 2004 Entomology condition report undertaken to assess the condition of the collection.
  • 2005-2006 The collection is documented in detail revealing a number of collectors and 70 species which are now nationally extinct or endangered.

Pest damage

The Collectors

‘BC Santa Clara Moths’ Collection

There are 4 drawers of specimens belonging to one collector from a field season in 1961. Specimens pertaining to this collector have a range of different labels, occasionally with identification, labelled either xx.xx.61 or B.C.xx.xx.61. Presumably this number is the collection date. There is also a 3 digit number on labels, inscribed after the ’61 date probably pertaining to a notebook or field locality. This notebook is not currently in the archives at the Grant Museum.

The moths of this collection all have described ranges in South America but the only locality information on approximately a third of the labels is ‘Santa Clara’. There are a few labels inscribed ‘Volcan’. A quick search for Santa Clara on the web brings up 50 results across South America. The word Volcan is a similarly non-restricted term used to describe a range of mountains, volcanoes, hills etc. One specimen was described from Arima valley in Trinidad, however, one locality does not make a definitive collection provenance. The provenance for these specimens can only be reasonably refined to South America. Any further narrowing down of range would be speculative and inaccurate.

C. A. Wiggins Collection

The C. A. Wiggins collection is the non-Grant Museum material that was transferred from the Oxford Natural History Museum for use in the biodiversity display. The material given to the Grant formed part of a collection formed by WIGGINS, C. A. and dates from around 1915-22, and again in 1925. This material was all collected in Uganda, and mostly around Entebbe.

Finzi Collection

Roughly half of the entomology collection at the Grant Museum is comprised of specimens from the Mr. J. A. Finzi (F.E.S) collection. This collection was donated to the museum in 1911 and is a beautiful collection of UK Lepidoptera that comprises roughly half of the entomology described. The specimens were collected between 1877-1909. The collection contains over 70 species of moths and butterflies now endangered and extinct in the UK as well as a few gynandromorphs and other hybrids. Finzi was an active collector and the collection contains many specimens he collected as well as a number of specimens he received from other collectors or bought at auctions.

Insecta- Biodiversity of the World This collection contains approximately one hundred specimens. At some stage representative organisms from the major orders and families of the collection have been compiled. This section of the collection is typified by yellow labels with red printed font. This collection was compiled at an unknown date and some of the specimens were taken from the Finzi collection to illustrate insect diversity. It is unknown whether the other insects in the collection were taken from the rest of the collection or compiled outside of the museum and later donated. A lot of the old labels refer to taxonomic divisions that are no longer valid. Many of the specimens were collected between 1890 and 1910.

Dr. P. B. Mason Collection

The Finzi collection is mixed in with specimens purchased from Dr. Mason's collection bought at auction from Mr. J. C. Stevens' “great rooms at Convent Garden” in December 1905. It is unclear whether these specimens were purchased by Finzi and integrated into their collection before it was donated or if the collection was purchased by the Grant Museum and then integrated after the Finzi collection was donated.

Entomological Species List

This downloadable list is by no means a comprehensive list of the entomology collections at the Grant Museum. However, this list serves as a reasonable placeholder for researchers, teachers and visitors interested in entomology until much greater electronic access is available.

A majority of the specimens recorded on this list are Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) from the Finzi collection.